What is contributory negligence?

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2015 | Car Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, from inclement weather to aggressive driving. Whenever an accident occurs, it is important for those harmed by the accident to understand their legal rights when it comes to compensation. This, of course, is the purpose of personal injury and wrongful death litigation.

One of the important points accident victims need to understand about personal injury cases is that there are potential limitations on the ability to receive damages. Specifically, Alabama law recognizes that, in some cases, accidents are caused by the negligence of multiple parties. In some cases, an accident would not have occurred, or wouldn’t have turned out so badly, if it wasn’t for the negligent actions of the victim. 

Under Alabama’s contributory negligence law, a plaintiff seeking damages from a defendant accused of negligence is unable to receive damages if he or she is found to have contributed to the accident by his or her own negligence. Previous court decisions have established that it is not the burden of the plaintiff to disprove accusations of contributory negligence; rather, it is the burden of the defendant to prove that the plaintiff was negligent.

One thing that should be made clear is that contributory negligence is only available as a defense when the defendant is accused of negligence—it is not a defense to “wantonness,” or gross negligence. Plaintiffs who seek damages from a defendant for behavior that rises above simply negligence do not, therefore, have to worry about their own negligence impacting their recovery. 

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