What is 'contributory negligence’? Contributory negligence is a partial defence to a personal injury claim. If the defendant is successful in arguing this defence, it can lead to a reduction (in the form of a percentage) of a claimant’s award in damages.
Section 1(1) of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 (LR(CN)A 1945) states:
‘Where any person suffers damage as the result partly of his own fault and partly of the fault of another 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 extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant’s share in the responsibility.’
So, essentially, even if you make a successful personal injury claim in the courts, you may still be found to be partially at fault for your own injuries. A very common instance in which contributory negligence is raised as a defence is when the claimant is involved in a road traffic accident and is not wearing a seatbelt. However, it is an argument often raised in other cases too, such as accidents at work or trips/falls.
When will the defendant be successful in arguing contributory negligence?
The burden of proof lies upon the defendant in this aspect of the claim. This means that the defendant will have to prove their allegation that you, the claimant, are partially to blame. defendants can put forward an argument of contributory negligence even if they admit fault initially. To do this, the defendant has to satisfy the three following test in the eyes of the court:
- That the claimant failed to take reasonable care for their own safety
- That this cause or contributed to the injury; and
- It was reasonably foreseeable that the claimant would be harmed.
The court will then take into account the respective ‘blameworthiness’ of each party and calculate the degree or level to which each party was to blame for the claimant’s injuries.
How can Stephensons help?
Contributory negligence is a complex issue and must be given careful consideration by solicitors acting for a claimant. It is a matter to be aware of from the very beginning of your claim and throughout. The defence can be challenged by a claimant and will fail if the court deems the defendant not to have provided sufficient evidence to substantiate the reduction in the claimant’s damages.
Our specialist personal injury solicitors can help you to bring a claim and advise you on issues such as contributory negligence. Call our personal injury specialists today on 0161 696 6235 to discuss if you could be entitled to claim compensation.
By Lucy Moran, graduate paralegal in the personal injury department