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If I’m even 1% negligent, can I still recover damages?

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2023 | Personal Injury |

If you have been injured by another’s negligence in Virgina, you want to know your options for civil justice. You want to be heard, and you want to be compensated for your damages, like lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, etc. Unfortunately, our state follows a pure contributory negligence rule, which could severely limit your ability to recover from another’s negligence.


Negligence is a legal term that simply means that someone failed to exercise reasonable care in some situation, and another person experienced damages or injuries as a result. The most common negligence claim stems from an auto accident, but other types of personal injuries exist as well, like medical malpractice, etc.

Pure contributory negligence rule

Contributory negligence is, essentially, a defense that a negligent person uses to avoid some liability. In most cases, if you contributed to your injuries, then your damages are limited to the percentage that you did not contribute. As such, if you were 20% negligent, you can only seek damages for 80% of your damages. However, that is not how Virginia uses contributory negligence.

Instead, our state uses the pure contributory negligence rule. This means that if you, in any way, contributed to your injuries or damages, you cannot recover damages. Even if you only contributed 1% to your injuries, and the other person was 99% at fault, you cannot recover. Of course, as your get tells you, this is unfair.

Overcoming contributory negligence

Though, do not rest on your rights. There are ways to overcome this negligence rule. First, you can prove you are 100% blameless. Next, you can show that the other person was grossly negligent, the actions were intentional or that the negligence was willful and wanton. Pure contributory negligence does not apply in these cases.

You can also show that only the defendant could have avoided the accident, yet they failed to do so. Or, you can show they violated a statute or regulation that was enacted to protect you.


Negligence law in Virginia is harsh. However, it is not impossible to get your civil justice. You will just have to provide strong evidence and understand the law.