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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Take That, Contributory Negligence | BikeLaw Blog

Contributory negligence is most frustrating when a driver knowshe did something wrong, admits he did something wrong and is still trying to get out of it by arguing that the person he hurt is at least some small percentage at fault.   A surprisingly not-so-uncommon explanation: “Yeah I know I didn’t look before turning right on red, but that cyclist should have known I might be negligent and been able to avoid running into the side of my car when I darted out in front of him.” In 46 states, anyone would laugh at such an argument.  In North Carolina, it has a decent chance of getting that driver out of having any responsibility for his actions.
That was the approach the driver took last week in our jury trial in Mecklenburg County.  The driver’s attorney argued more than once to the jury that they only had to find our client 1% responsible and then he would get nothing.  Thankfully justice prevailed this time.

It helped to have a client who is a careful and experienced cyclist and was a great witness (not because he’s a fabulous public speaker, but just a straight-up honest guy).  It helped that I knew the scene so well and that we were, well, just right about this.  Unfortunately, thanks to our State’s outdated and unfair law, it just took a lot of work and perseverance to resolve a case that shouldn’t have taken more than a couple of conversations to settle.


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