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Contributory Negligence: What Impact Can It Have on My Personal Injury Case?

There are many factors that influence the success of a personal injury case. These include: the strength of the evidence presented, the severity of the damages that result, and the available insurance coverage. While some factors influence the outcome of the case in minor ways, a few can have a major impact on the success—or failure—of the case.

If you file a personal injury claim in Virginia, Maryland or D.C., the role you played in causing the accident is going to be one of the biggest factors in the success or failure of your case.

Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence

Almost all states have some form of “comparative negligence”. Using the example of a car accident, comparative negligence means that, if Sue was injured in a collision caused by Bill, but Sue was partially responsible, then the amount that Sue can “recover” (receive) from Bill’s insurance policy is reduced to reflect the extent that Sue was also at fault.

However, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. (as well as Alabama and North Carolina), have far more stringent laws regarding how injured drivers may collect for their damages in a personal injury claim. These four states and D.C., follow statutes of “contributory negligence”. Under these laws, if Sue is found to be just 1% at fault for the accident, she is not entitled to any financial compensation, no matter how significant her injuries.

Proving that you had no responsibility for the accident or other injury-causing event or can be surprisingly difficult to do, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the legal system, or how to deal with insurance companies. To protect your interests, it is critical to work with an experienced law firm with a proven track record in successfully handling cases like yours.

How Can I Keep the Liable Party from Placing Any Responsibility on Me?

While there are no guarantees when it comes to personal injury actions, there are steps you can take to increase your claim’s chance of success. Regarding contributory negligence, you can keep the liable party from shifting blame your way by doing the following:

1. Avoid Giving a Recorded Statement

The insurance adjuster will probably ask for a statement fairly soon after you file your claim; however, if you discuss what happened—or what you think happened—before completing an in-depth investigation, you could end up saying something that turns out to be untrue. And since discrepancies open the door for disputes, it’s best to refuse to give a recorded statement at all.

2. Compile Strong Evidence

In tort actions, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff. That means that, as the “injured party”, it will be up to you to demonstrate how the liable party was wholly to blame for the accident. While the strongest evidence of fault will depend on the circumstances, it will probably include at least a few of the following:

  • Official reports,
  • Eyewitness testimony,
  • Photographs of the scene,
  • The results of any relevant toxicology tests, and
  • Video footage.

This information is provided to you by Weiner, Spivey & Miller, PLC. For more than 20 years, our firm has been helping accident victims recover what is rightfully theirs from reckless and negligent parties.

Backed by nearly two centuries of collective experience in personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice matters, our attorneys have what it takes to negotiate sizable settlements and win significant verdicts for our clients. Call 703-215-9982 or complete our Online Contact Form to set up a free case review with a personal injury attorney in Fairfax.

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