In law, behaviour that contributes to one's own injury or loss and fails to meet the standard of prudence that one should observe for one's own good. Contributory negligence of the plaintiff is frequently pleaded in defense to a charge of negligence. In Engish law and in the law of many U.S. states, if the plaintiff is shown to have contributed through negligence to his own injury, recovery may still be allowed, but provision is made for an equitable reduction of damages. Contributory negligence has been criticized by some authorities because it effectively excuses one party (the defendant) even though both were negligent.
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Most jurisdictions in the United States have modified the doctrine, either by court decision or by legislation and have accordingly changed the name to comparative negligence wherein, rather than awarding no damages at all, the jury reduces the compensation to be awarded by a percentage reflecting the degree to which the plaintiff's negligence contributed to cause the damages. In England and Wales, the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 had a similar effect (the similar, current doctrine being termed Acts of the claimant). Maryland, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia retain contributory negligence as a complete defense to negligence.