Yes. North Carolina is one of the few states where contributory negligence is the legal doctrine still used in determining the amount of compensation a plaintiff, or injured party in an accident, can receive. Contributory negligence will bar any and all recovery for the injured party if they contribute to the accident. This means if the injured party is even 1% at fault in creating the injury, he or she is completely barred from any recovery.
It is commonly assumed by the general public that if the defendant is more at fault then the injured party, then the injured party will be able to recover a portion of the damages from the accident. Most states do follow Comparative Negligence where you are entitled to recover damages even if you contributed to the accident. However, the North Carolina Supreme Court holds North Carolina to the harsh standard of contributory negligence, requiring the defendant to be 100% at fault before holding them accountable for their actions.
Contributory negligence is an affirmative defense in a personal injury claim. After an accident, the injured party will make their claim for damages to the defendant or their insurance company, if the matter is not settled through negotiations the injured party may file a lawsuit. An affirmative defense is a defense raised by the defendant in answering a lawsuit. This affirmative defense will allow the defendant, or their insurance provider, to claim they should not be held responsible due to the injured party’s partial contribution to the incident. While there are a few exceptions to this rule they can be difficult to prove. For example, if the defendant claims contributory negligence in a lawsuit for damages, the injured party will have the opportunity to prove the defendant did in fact have the last clear chance to avoid the accident. By failing to act on the last clear chance to avoid the accident, the defendant can be held to be fully responsible for the damage caused by the accident, even if the injured party was partially responsible. However, this can be a difficult and daunting task to prove in court.
The bottom line: If you are even slightly responsible in an accident, or contribute to the accident even just 1%, you will likely be barred from recovering from the person who was 99% responsible for the accident. If you feel you may have been partially at fault in an accident, you should contact an attorney immediately to review your case and protect your rights.