What is contributory negligence?

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If you have started to look into making a personal injury claim, you may have heard the term ‘contributory negligence’. This is an argument brought by the other side (the Defendant) in an attempt to demonstrate they were not fully responsible for your accident and/or injuries, and therefore should not pay full compensation for your claim.

You may still be able to make a personal injury claim even if you were partly at fault for the accident. Our personal injury solicitors explain more.

What is contributory negligence?

Contributory negligence is a defence strategy associated with personal injury cases. If the Claimant (the person injured) has been injured but contributed to the injury/accident in some way, then the Defendant (person/company accused of causing the injury) will not be considered fully liable.

In cases where both parties share some responsibility for the accident, the compensation may be reduced to reflect the degree to which you were at fault.

What are examples of contributory negligence?

Common examples of contributory negligence in personal injury claims are:

  • Road traffic accidents where the Claimant was injured in an accident that was not their fault but they were not wearing a seatbelt. If you are aged 14 or over, the law states that you must wear a seat belt if there is one fitted. As a seatbelt aims to protect passengers from injury in an accident, and by not wearing one, they therefore contributed to the injury/injuries sustained.
  • Accidents at work: a worker is injured whilst using machinery and not following provided instructions, or without the correct safety gear provided by their employer.
  • Accidents in public: the Claimant was injured but was under the influence of alcohol.

Blog | Can I claim for personal injury if I was cycling without lights?

Contributory negligence can be complex and it is not always clear as to whether it is a factor in a personal injury claim. Our personal injury solicitors can advise you on this as part of the claims process.

How is contributory negligence proved?

In personal injury cases, the Claimant looks to prove the Defendant was responsible for their injury or injuries. In cases where contributory negligence is thought to be a factor, the decision about whether there was contributory negligence will come down to both sides providing evidence and presenting their argument.

It is the responsibility of the Defendant to prove contributory negligence and three ‘tests’ must be satisfied:

  1. That you, the injured person, failed to take reasonable care for your own safety;
  2. That this failure caused or contributed to the cause of the accident and/or injury; and
  3. It was reasonably foreseeable that you would be injured.

The Defendant must provide evidence for the alleged contributory negligence which your personal injury lawyer will review and advise you about. If there is some blame on your part, a ‘liability split’ may be negotiated.

How can contributory negligence impact a personal injury claim?

You may still be able to make a personal injury claim even if you were partly at fault for the accident; it doesn’t necessarily prevent you from seeking compensation. However, if you are entirely to blame for your injuries, then you will receive no compensation as there is no third-party negligence, and you cannot sue yourself.

If an element of contributory negligence is justified, the parties will agree, or the court will order, a deduction from the compensation that the Defendant owes to the Claimant.

The deduction made will be assessed based on what is ‘just and equitable having regard to the claimant’s share in the responsibility for the damage’ (Section 1 of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945). On average, this could be a reduction of 10 to 25% on a Claimant’s damages, but sometimes it can be as high as 80%. It depends very much on the facts of the case.

Case study | Compensation for cyclist after accident without lights

To claim for contributory negligence, the Defendant will need to provide evidence in support of the allegations and will often propose a percentage split in liability. The Claimant’s solicitor will confirm if the contributory negligence allegations will succeed and advise you upon any proposal made by the Defendant. If they believe they will, they will then determine if the split is reasonable or if a lower split should be put forward.

If both parties cannot agree on the alleged claim, a judge may be required to review the evidence and decide what split is appropriate.

Contact our personal injury solicitors in Bristol

If you’ve been injured in an accident that was partly your fault or you think you could be subject to claims of contributory negligence, our personal injury lawyers can help.

It’s important to remember that you could still be entitled to compensation, and every case is different. For a no-obligation chat, call our team on 0117 325 2929 or fill in our online enquiry form.


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