Contributory Negligence Law and Legal Definition

Contributory negligence is a doctrine of common law that if a person was injured in part due to his/her own negligence the injured party was barred from recovering any damages (money) from another party who was claimed to have caused the accident. Under this rule, a severly injured person who was only minimally negligent could not win in court against a grossly negligent defendant. The harsh results from the application of the rule has led some juries to ignore the rule and most states have adopted a comparative negligence test in which the relative percentages of negligence by each person are used to apportion liability for damages.

Workers' compensation laws made the defense inapplicable to claims for compensation; it is available only if an employee waives his compensation claim and instead sues an employer in tort.