Contributory Negligence Definition

A common law rule that prevents a personal injury plaintiff from recovering damages (money) in court if the plaintiff bears any amount of blame for the underlying accident.

The contributory negligence rule leads to harsh results, since it denies compensation to accident victims even if their share of fault is only slight. That's one reason why only a few states (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.) still follow contributory negligence.

Instead, most states follow some version of comparative negligence, which allows plaintiffs who share blame for their own accident to still collect damages from other at-fault parties.