What is contributory negligence?
The mid-atlantic states are one of the last bastions of contributory negligence. In the vast majority states, you compare the relative fault in any given accident (comparative fault). While state laws differ, the plaintiff would recover so long as the plaintiff was not greater than 50% at fault.
In a contributory negligence state such as Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. there is no comparing the fault of the parties to any accident. If the plaintiff CONTRIBUTED to cause the accident, or his/her injuries, the the plaintiff cannot recover whatsoever ($0.00). This is a harsh rule, but one that has remained on the books for many years, and is fairly well ingrained in the legal systems of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. This law is the reason why Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. TV lawyer ads always say “If you’ve been hurt through no fault of your own…” There have been pushes to get this law repealed so that Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. can move towards comparative fault, but this hasn’t happened yet.