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Definition of Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is common law doctrine which states if a person's injury or loss is caused by their own negligence they are not entitled to receive compensation for their loss. Only five states continue to use their doctrine to determine damages in an injury claim.

Most states have replaced the system of contributory negligence, which was left over from British common law, with comparative negligence which allows claimants to recover compensation to the degree of their fault. For instance, under comparative negligence, the amount of the plaintiff's award is reduced by the extent to which the plaintiff's conduct contributed to the harm suffered.

In the five states which use a pure contributory negligence system this serves as a complete bar to recovery in an injury claim for any party who is found to have contributed to their injuries at all. The states that still use pure contributory negligence are Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina; and the District of Columbia.

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