What is Contributory Negligence, and why does it matter for your Virginia accident case?

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If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence (whether in a car accident, slip & fall, or another type of accident), you need to be aware that Virginia applies the rule of Contributory Negligence. Under this rule, if the person that injured you is 99% at fault, but you’re only 1% at fault, you are barred from recovery. Stated another way, you lose if you played any role whatsoever in the cause of your injury.

Does this rule sound archaic?  

That’s because it is. 

Indeed, Virginia is one of only three states in the United States that apply this rule.  The other states opt for Comparative Negligence that apportions fault to the respective parties. With that being said, this rule is unforgiving in Virginia, so you can’t ignore it.

But I’ve been catastrophically injured! Won’t they give me a break?

Tragically, no. Time and time again, the courts have applied Contributory Negligence unforgivingly regardless of the severity of the injury. Indeed, they’ve dismissed wrongful death cases (where the victim died as a result of the accident).  

And, to be clear, insurance companies are not your friend. Should they think they have a viable Contributory Negligence defense in your case, they will wield that as powerfully as possible.

So, what can I do?  

If you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury, you must talk to an attorney before talking to anyone else about your claim. It’s essential to do this to minimize the risk someone will claim that you contributed fault to your accident.

Inherently, many cases will be barred by Contributory Negligence, and not much can be done. The law is the law.  But in other cases, while the argument of Contributory Negligence is there, this is not a “scientific analysis.” 

In many cases, it’s clear that the insurance company and/or defendant would have an argument to make at trial for Contributory Negligence. But it’s also possible that this unfair rule won’t apply, and you may win.  

Therefore, you need an attorney that knows how Contributory Negligence plays out at trial. You need an attorney who is willing to try your case if necessary.

Still have questions?

Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have.  James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews.  Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.