The term "contributory negligence" refers to a defense that is argued in Oregon and Washington negligence and personal injury cases. Essentially, when a defendant asserts a defense of contributory negligence, he or she is alleging that the plaintiff, who is bringing the claim, was at least partially at fault in causing his or her own injury. Both Oregon and Washington allow this defense, but there are some significant differences.
In Oregon, a defendant can allege the defense of contributory negligence. If there is any evidence to support that argument, a jury is then asked to allocate the percentage of fault between each party. In Oregon, if an injured plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, then the injured plaintiff is permitted to make any recovery for her damages. In other words, a defendant in Oregon could be 49% at fault, and if that is the case, then that defendant owes nothing to an injured plaintiff. Of course, there are special rules when there are more than two parties involved in a case.
Washington, on the other hand, is known as a "pure comparative" state. This means that the plaintiff is entitled to recover a pro rata share of the damages based on the defendant's fault. Thus, if a jury found the defendant and Washington only 10% at fault, then the injured Washington plaintiff would be entitled to 10% of any damages the jury decided on the case.
Other states bar any recovery whatsoever if the plaintiff is found at fault, even if it is one or two percentage points.
If you have a question about a comparative fault issue, call us at 503-325-8600. We have experience handling these kinds of issues in Oregon and Washington.