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Contributory negligence - could you be partly to blame for your accident?

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I had an accident at work but it happened elsewhere - can I still claim?

As individuals, we are expected to take responsibility for ourselves, and persons we are responsible for, when we go about our day-to-day lives. It is important to realise therefore, that when you get injured, it may not always be considered to be wholly the other party’s fault.

What is contributory negligence?

This is a legal term used by defendants when they want to argue that the injured party was partly to blame (liable) for what happened to them. In other words, that they contributed to their injury occurring and are partly liable for it. Ascertaining who is to blame is one of the first difficulties to overcome in a claim. The defendant might deny liability, might admit liability in full or might admit primary liability but allege contributory negligence.

When might contributory negligence be alleged?

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, we all have to take some responsibility for ourselves and our own actions. However, it is possible that sometimes our actions can lead to injury and the law recognises this. For example, if you are a pedestrian walking at night and you are wearing dark clothing, it makes it much harder for you to be seen by drivers. If you are then hit by a vehicle, you may be considered partly liable for your injuries. Likewise, if you step into the road without looking or on a red pedestrian light. Other examples may be if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when your accident happened or, in an accident at work, if you did not follow training or safe systems of work provided.

How is contributory negligence proved?

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

  1. That the injured person has failed to take reasonable care for their own safety
  2. That this caused or contributed to the injury and
  3. It was reasonably foreseeable that the claimant would be harmed.

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

What does contributory negligence mean for my claim?

Where you are found partly liable for your injuries, and your claim settles, it will affect how much compensation you will receive in your hand. For example, if you are shown to have contributed 25% to your injuries, you will receive 75% of the compensation awarded. So, if you and the defendant agree to settle for £6,000, you will receive £4,500.

What if I think my accident was my fault?

Even if you think you are to blame for your injuries, seek advice from a personal injury solicitor because you may still be entitled to some compensation. You may even find that the other party is completely at fault once you have been advised on the legal duties that they owe to you. Each case will depend on its own individual facts.  

Call our expert personal injury team on 0161 696 6235  if you think you may have a claim, or even if you aren’t sure.

By Angeline Holmes, paralegal