Contributory Negligence Explained

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If you are in the process of making a compensation claim or if you are thinking of starting a claim, then you may have heard of the term ‘contributory negligence.’

However, as this is not a commonly used term outside of legal circles, we have explained what the term means below. 

Partial Fault

Contributory negligence, which can sometimes be referred to as partial fault, means that a claimant is partially responsible for the injuries they have sustained. If a claimant is found to be blameworthy then this means they share the responsibility of the accident to some degree, even if a defendant admits liability, they are still able to say that the claimant contributed in some way, to their injuries. 

In order for contributory negligence to be granted, it must be demonstrated that the claimant did not take proper care for their own safety. This failure to take care of their own safety caused the damage suffered but it did not necessarily cause the accident. 

In certain contributory negligence cases, there can be three parties involved but it remains that the court must always look at how the injured party contributed to their injuries as a matter of priority. Some other cases may involve other defences as well as contributory negligence. In such cases, courts will generally lean towards contributory negligence as it allows them to apportion blame between two parties and so the results are usually considered to be more fair, accurate and just. 

Law Reform Contributory Negligence

The Law Reform Act 1945 determined that contributory negligence could only be used as a partial defence but also that courts could apportion loss between two separate parties. It directly states: 

“Where any person suffers damage as the result partly of his own fault and partly as the fault of any other person or persons, a claim in respect of that damage shall not be defeated by reason of the fault of the person suffering the damage, but the damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced to such an extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant’s share in the responsibility for the damage.” 

What Happens if Contributory Negligence is Evident?

If a court upholds the decision of contributory negligence, then the amount of compensation can be reduced by the percentage of blame that has been apportioned. For example, if a passenger of a car has been told they contributed to their injury by 30% then the amount of damages can be reduced by 30%. 

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What Does Contributory Negligence Mean for Me and My Case?

The best way to describe how contributory negligence might affect your case is through examples of common types of personal injury accidents. For example: 

  • When a passenger does not wear a seatbelt in an accident where the driver was at fault, they could be said to have been negligent. A portion of the blame for the injuries they suffered could then be apportioned to them.
  • If a helmet has not been worn or fastened correctly before a motorbike accident.
  • Employees who have worn safety equipment when they have had an accident; the accident would still have happened anyway but the level of damage that has occurred has been exacerbated because of the contributing negligence of the person injured. 
  • When a pedestrian does not look when he/she crosses the road and suffers injuries through a car accident.
  • If warnings are not adhered to and a risk is taken e.g. at work. This is different if you accept reasonable risk while trying to rescue someone and is usually not considered contributory negligence. 

Making A Claim With First Personal Injury

If you believe you have a case and there could be contributory negligence claimed by a defendant, then please get in touch with First Personal Injury lawyers. We will be able to advise you about how to deal with this potential defence as well as guiding you through more general aspects of the legal process. 

To learn more or to start your claim, get in touch with our expert team on 0800 808 9740 or contact us online. 

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