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Contributory Negligence

The concept of contributory negligence is used to characterize conduct that creates an unreasonable risk to one’s self. The idea is that an individual has a duty to act as a reasonable person. When a person does not act this way and injury occurs, that person may be held entirely or partially responsible for the resulting injury, even though another party was involved in the accident.

For example, Dave, a motorist, strikes Sally, a pedestrian who was crossing the street without carefully checking traffic or heeding the warning of the do-not-cross sign of the nearby streetlight. Who is at fault in this situation?

After an injured party files a negligence claim, the defendant (the person sued) may then assert a contributory negligence claim against the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit), effectively stating that the injury occurred at least partially as a result of the plaintiff’s own actions. This would be a contributory negligence counterclaim.

If the defendant is able to prove the contributory negligence claim, the plaintiff may be totally barred from recovering damages or her damages may be reduced to reflect her role in the resulting injury. The pedestrian in the example, Sally, probably would be considered at least partially at fault (and therefore liable for contributory negligence) for carelessly crossing the street.

Overview of Negligence in Accident or Injury Claims

Negligence is a term used to characterize conduct that creates an unreasonable risk of harm to others. If you are negligent, and your negligence causes another person to become injured, then you are legally responsible for paying damages. In order to prevail on a negligence claim, the party will have to prove the following elements:

1.The defendant owed a duty toward the plaintiff (i.e. reasonable care for other’s safety).

2.The defendant failed to act in a reasonable way, or breached its duty (for example, a driver was reckless or intoxicated).

3.The defendant’s breach was the actual cause of another’s injuries.

4.The defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of the injuries (the defendant should have known that the breach would cause injury).

5.The plaintiff suffered actual injuries, for which he or she may claim damages.

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