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North Carolina Negligence Laws

In many injury cases, one party is at fault. Most personal injury cases hinge on the legal theory of negligence, whereby an individual who owes a duty to another fails to exercise a certain degree of care, causing injury. For instance, a restaurant whose cook fails to check the temperature of a roasted chicken may be held negligent for the diners' resulting food poisoning. The defendant is only liable if they owe a particular duty to the plaintiff. For example, if a diner with celiac disease fails to mention this to the restaurant staff and ends up ingesting gluten (which people with celiac disease can't consume), then it's the diner's (not the restaurant's) fault.

North Carolina negligence laws follow the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, which bars recovery by the plaintiff if they're just partially at fault (even as little as 1%). The majority of other states follow the doctrine of comparative negligence, in which the amount of damages is reduced in proportion to the plaintiff's degree of fault.

This article provides a brief overview of negligence laws in North Carolina.

Negligence in North Carolina at a Glance

When you're injured, the last thing you want to do is decipher the dense legalese often found in statutes. The following chart highlights some of the main provisions of North Carolina's negligence laws, written in a clear and concise manner.


North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 1:

Comparative Negligence


Contributory Negligence & Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery

Plaintiff may not recover damages if even partially at fault; the party asserting this defense has the burden of proof

Contribution Among Tortfeasors

Yes, but only for their pro rata share of fault; no contribution if the defendant intentionally committed the injury or wrongful death

Time Limit for Claims

3 years for personal injury claims (North Carolina Civil Statute of Limitations )

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

What are the Elements of a Negligence Case?

Negligence is a fairly standardized cause of action, so the elements required to establish liability are quite uniform from one state to the next. Generally, the elements of a negligence case are:

  • The defendant owed a duty to commit an act or refrain from committing an act;
  • The defendant breached this duty;
  • This breach of duty caused injury to the plaintiff;
  • Defendant's actions (or inactions) were the proximate cause of the injury (the defendant's actions were reasonably related to the injuries claimant sustained); and
  • Plaintiff suffered actual damages (i.e., lost wages, hospital bills, etc.).

Research the Law

North Carolina Negligence Laws: Related Resources

Get Help With Your Negligence Claim From a North Carolina Attorney

North Carolina has a number of different negligence laws that apply to a variety of injuries. If you have a personal injury matter, you should find a local attorney who understands North Carolina's rules on contributory negligence and tortfeasor contribution. It's in your best interests to contact an experienced North Carolina injury attorney near you today.

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