If someone asks you whether the laws in each state are relatively the same and fair in the way they treat those injured versus the insurance companies, who collect billion in premiums and (or should be) responsible to compensate citizens for their injuries and claims – consider the following:

A determination of negligence (failure to use reasonable care) is the basic cornerstone of every civil claim for recovery in the individual states of the U.S. including auto accidents, slip and falls, bicycle and motorcycle accidents, products liability and even medical malpractice.

In this regard 46 states follow the doctrine of “Comparative” Negligence and 4 states the doctrine of “Contributory” Negligence.

Contributory Negligence versus Comparative Negligence – What does this mean?

Contributory negligence defined as follows: If a person who brings a claim or lawsuit (Plaintiff) contributes to any degree to his or her accident (even 1%), such person shall not recover any compensation for his/her injuries (including medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering) and shall be barred from recovery.

For example: Jury finds Plaintiff 10% at fault and Defendant 90% at fault and awards total legal damages of $100,000.00. Plaintiff recovers $ 0-nothing.

The above law is followed in North Carolina and only 3 other jurisdictions in the U.S.

Comparative negligence: If a person who brings a claim or lawsuit (Plaintiff) contributes to his/her accident then the trier of fact (judge or jury) shall determine the degree or percentage of such fault or contribution of the Plaintiff (i.e. 10, 20, 30%) and such percentage of fault shall be deducted from the Plaintiff’s recovery.

Example; Jury finds Plaintiff 10% at fault and Defendant 90% at fault and awards total legal damages of $100,000.00. Plaintiff recovers $90,000.00.

The above law is followed in New York, California, South Carolina, Florida and 46 states in total.

Practical example and application: Scenario #1

Bob is driving his car on Main Street in Cornelius, North Carolina. He is in his lane and driving without distraction at 40 mph, (the speed almost everyone on average drives on that section of road) although the posted speed limit is 35mph. At the same time Jerry, who spent the last 5 hours at the local pub, is driving his car 50 mph on a cross street. Jerry runs a red light and plows into the side of Bob’s car causing Bob serious injuries. Jerry is administered a breathalyzer and is determined to be at a blood alcohol level of .20, over 2x the legal limit of .08

Jerry’s insurance company “Our-state insurance” refuses to pay and stakes out the defense that Bob was negligent in that he was driving over the speed limit in violation of the state statute and therefore is at least 1% negligent.

The case goes to trial in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. The jury finds Jerry 98% at fault and Bob 2%.

Bob recovers nothing even though he had serious injuries and $100,000.00 in damages including medical bills and lost wages.

 Practical example:  Scenario #2

Exact same as Scenario #1 except this accident happened just over the border in Mint Hill South Carolina. (comparative negligence jurisdiction)

Bob recovers $98,000.00.

Fair? You decide where you would rather live as far ability to recover for injuries caused by another and/or set up an insurance company whose business is ostensibly to cover and pay for such loss.