Cyclist Lobby Fights to Repeal Contributory Negligence

Cyclist Lobby Fights to Repeal Contributory Negligence

The Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015, introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3), seeks to modify the common law principle of contributory negligence.   Contributory negligence is a common law principle, only followed in the states of: Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, North Carolina and Alabama, which awards damages only if a plaintiff is completely free from negligence.   Many view this principle as needlessly draconian and inequitable, as a plaintiff could be deemed 1% at fault and the defendant 99% at fault by a jury, but the plaintiff would be awarded no damages.

The Bill introduced by Mary Cheh does not seek to repeal contributory negligence in the District completely, but rather focuses on cases involving cyclists and pedestrians.  If passed, the Bill would allow cyclists and pedestrians to recover damages in a court of law from a negligent driver as long as they were less than 50% negligent. This could be the beginning of a larger movement to chip away at the principle of contributory negligence that persists in the Mid-Atlantic states.  The subrogation and personal injury industries would certainly welcome such a sea change.