SWEEPING CHANGE IN NEGLIGENCE LAW

The North Carolina legislature is on the path to bringing North Carolina into line with 46 other states by dumping the old and illogical contributory negligence system with comparative negligence laws. See the summary below created by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice for an explanation of what this means for you:

COMPARATIVE FAULT:
FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE FOR ALL NORTH CAROLINIANS
HB 813
What is comparative fault?

Comparative fault — the law in 46 states but not in North Carolina – allows judges or juries to divide responsibility among everyone who contributed to an injury, based on their degree of fault.

North Carolina does not have comparative fault. We have contributory negligence, a rule that prohibits an injured person from receiving any compensation if she made even the slightest contribution to her injury.

Why is contributory negligence bad for North Carolina?
• Individuals and businesses hurt because of someone else’s wrongdoing are denied the
opportunity to seek compensation for their injuries.
• Contributory negligence undermines principles of accountability and responsibility that lie at the heart of our civil justice system.

How do we fix the problem of contributory negligence?

Replace contributory negligence with comparative fault – as 46 other states have done.

The North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) supports enactment of the Uniform
Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act (UATRA), a model bill approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 2002. Drafted by a broadly representative committee, UATRA is a compromise that draws on the experience of the 46 states that have adopted comparative fault.

How does UATRA work?
UATRA replaces contributory negligence with comparative fault. Under current law, if a person is 1% or more at fault, she can recover nothing from the party primarily responsible. Under UATRA, the injured person can recover as long as she is not more than 50% at fault. Her recovery is reduced by the percentage she is at fault.
UATRA also modifies joint and several liability. Under current law, fault is not divided among multiple wrongdoers, and the injured person can collect all her damages from any one of the responsible parties. Under UATRA, when two or more parties cause the injury, fault is allocated among those wrongdoers, based on their proportionate responsibility.

Here’s an example of how it works. A speeding truck runs a red light and hits Beth’s car broadside, totaling the car and fracturing her skull. Beth had the green light, but was driving 5 miles per hour above the speed limit. The jury decides that the truck driver was 90% at fault for running the red light and Beth was 10% at fault for speeding. Under the current law of contributory negligence, Beth would receive nothing because she was partly at fault. Under UATRA, Beth would receive compensation for her injuries, minus 10% for her fault in the accident.

UATRA is a compromise that strikes a thoughtful balance between the
interests of plaintiffs and defendants, fairly apportioning fault to all who
are responsible.

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