Contributory negligence is a legal defense to a civil tort claim based upon negligence. Many states including Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland all adhere to the concept of contributory negligence which means that if a judge or jury were to find that you were guilty of negligence which contributed to your injury then you cannot recover as a result of that.
The law on contributory negligence is very harsh. Many states have abandoned that concept and have adopted a principle known as comparative negligence which means that even though there is some negligence on the part of the person bringing the claim, as long as that negligence is less than 50%, then the person can still recover but their recovery may be diminished or reduced by the percentage amount of their negligence.
In states where contributory negligence is the rule then claims must be evaluated very carefully since a jury may be bound to find against the plaintiff even though the injury may be devastating and the plaintiff very sympathetic.
See Brien Roche’s book Law 101 published by Sphinx Publishing for more information on this subject.
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For more information on contributory negligence see the pages on Wikipedia.