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Expecting A Large Personal Injury Settlement - It May Be Reduced By These Three Things

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If you have been injured due to the negligence of others, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit. Many people immediately start envisioning what they will do with the large sums of money they expect to receive, even before they hire a personal injury attorney. Unfortunately, there are certain situations that may reduce, or even eliminate, the amount of settlement you are entitled to. 

Contributory Negligence/Comparative Negligence

If your actions have contributed to or caused your injury, the court may reduce or even eliminate any monetary award you are due to receive under one of the following two principles. 

Contributory Negligence - states that if you contribute to the fault in any way, you can be barred from receiving any type of award from the other person who was at fault. North Carolina states it as the following "A plaintiff is contributorily negligent when he fails to exercise such care as an ordinarily prudent person would exercise under the circumstances in order to avoid injury." 

This principle is only observed by the following states:

  • North Carolina
  • Alabama
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Washington, DC

For example: If you choose to cross the street outside of the crosswalk area that is clearly marked and you are struck by a motorist, you may not be able to collect damages from the person who struck you. The court may rule that you contributed to your injuries by choosing to cross at a place that was not marked. 

There may be hope for recovery even if you live in one of the above state. There are numerous exceptions to this doctrine, and your personal injury attorney may know ways to get around it.

Comparative Negligence - states that you may be able to recover damages even if you contributed to your accident, but only up to the degree in which you contributed. This has been further broken down into;

  • Pure comparative negligence 
  • Modified comparative negligence

Comparative negligence principles are very subjective in nature, and often requires the court, or jury, to come up with what percentage of blame is to be laid at the responsible person's feet. This percentage of blame will in turn determine the amount of the settlement.

Assumption Of Risk

You can reduce or eliminate your ability to recover damages for a negligent act if you knowingly and voluntarily assume the risk of the activity you are engaged in when you were injured. There are two ways you can assume this risk. They are:

  • Primary or express assumption of risk - is when you have given written or implied consent, making it evident that you are aware of the risk involved. This means that you actively engaged in the activity with full knowledge of the foreseen risks involved. 
    • An example of this would be if you sign a contract to engage in paintball, and the contract/waiver form spells out the risks involved. It would be difficult to recover damages for an injury you had been specifically warned about prior to your participation.
  • Secondary assumption of risk - is when you voluntarily accept the risk you are being exposed to, although it has been created by negligence on the part of another.
    • You know that it is dangerous to stand on the top step of a ladder, and you do so and fall. You will probably not win your suit even if you are able to show there was no sticker on the ladder warning you that the behavior was dangerous.


While most people would not knowingly give anyone permission to harm them, people do it everyday. This is usually in the form of waivers and releases of liability that are signed prior to engaging in activities that are deemed to be dangerous. Because most people do not read the small print, many people are not even aware that they have released the operator of the activity from liability. The ability to enforce these types of documents often vary based on the state, the activity, the jury, and the language within the document.

No one ever wants to pay out large amount of money due to the negligence of others, this is especially true in the case of insurance companies. They will find every trick in the book to try to reduce the amount they owe you. A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney from a firm like Kornfeld Robert B Inc PS will know how to refute these defenses in an effort to get you the financial settlement you deserve. Call one to review your case today.