Contributory negligence, sometimes referred to as pure contributory negligence, is a state-level legal doctrine that dictates that negligence must be determined in personal injury claims and that if the plaintiff (injured party) is at all responsible for his or her own injuries, no damages can be awarded in the case.
Unlike comparative negligence, contributory negligence dictates that any liability for one’s own injuries disqualifies the injured party from recovering damages in a personal injury lawsuit—even if the defendants named in the claim are 99% responsible for the injuries suffered.
Personal injury claims fall under the rule of state legal systems. Each state individually governs the regulations surrounding negligence and the potential damages that can be won in a lawsuit.
Many states have found the concept of pure contributory negligence to be unjust and have moved to what is considered a fairer determination of negligence and liability by implementing a system of comparative negligence instead. Comparative systems currently in use include pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence with a 50% or 51% rule.
The only remaining jurisdictions in which pure contributory negligence still governs personal injury claims are Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Alabama, and the District of Columbia.