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North Carolina Lawmakers Review Negligence Standards


Posted on May 28, 2009

In North Carolina, negligence standards are tough on accident victims. In fact, North Carolina is one of only four states in the nation to follow contributory negligence standards, which puts forth that if the injured party was in any way at fault for the accident in question, that person cannot collect damages.

In one case highlighted in the North Carolina News-Record, 27-year-old Stephen Gates was struck and killed by an SUV in a hit-and-run accident while he was changing his car tire.  But because Gate's car tire was touching the white line that marked the shoulder, he was partially at fault for his own fatal accident and his family was not able to file a wrongful death claim.

Now, though, Gate's mother is urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would change the contributory negligence standard that bars so many from filing claims in the wake of devastating and expensive accidents. Although similar bills have failed in the past, this year a bill sponsored by Greensboro Republican Representative John Blust and backed by every House member from Guilford County, North Carolina, passed the House 72-43 this month and will move to the Senate.

Opponents of the bill argue that changing the law will increase insurance rates - but there is no solid evidence illustrating that this will be the case. If the bill passes, the state will adopt a monetary awards system that will be proportionate to fault; that is, if a person is found to be ten percent at fault for their accident, they can still receive 90 percent of the settlement.

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