What Is Contributory Negligence?

contributory negligence-01Contributory negligence is an important factor in many personal injury claims. It is possible for people to make a personal injury claim against a person or organisation when they can demonstrate that the party’s actions or failure to act was negligent, and that this directly caused their personal injury. However, if the defendant can demonstrate that the claimant was also negligent, and that their negligence, their actions or their failure to act played a contributory factor in the injury, then the size of the personal injury compensation settlement will be reduced to reflect this.

The rules relating to contributory negligence come from the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945. This legislation calls for the size of the claimant’s compensation to be reduced in a just, equitable way that the court deems fairly reflects the claimant’s share of responsibility for their injuries. It is not possible to completely defeat a compensation claim due to the claimant’s contributory negligence, so people who think they are somewhat to blame for an accident they sustained injuries in should not necessarily worry about making a claim.

Examples Of Contributory Negligence

One of the simplest examples of contributory negligence available is seen in many road traffic accident claims. If a pedestrian steps out into the road without looking, and is hit by a driver who is also not looking, they may still be able to make a compensation claim, even though it could be shown that the accident would never have occurred had the pedestrian not acted in a negligent fashion.

Another example of contributory negligence could be seen in slip and trip compensation claims. If a person is in a supermarket and slips on a wet floor, they may be able to claim compensation against the supermarket. However, if staff at the supermarket had put ‘warning – wet floor’ signs out, then it could be argued that the claimant was negligent by failing to heed the warnings of the signs. Nonetheless, the supermarket would also have acted in a negligent fashion, as access to the wet floor should have been completely sealed off and the floor should have been dried to prevent slips and trips.

Proving Contributory Negligence

When mitigating a personal injury claim by alleging the claimant’s negligence contributed to the accident, the burden of proof is placed on the defendant. They must demonstrate two different issues:

–          The claimant did not take proper care for their own safety in the circumstances of the incident

–          That this failure or negligence contributed to the claimant’s damage.

It may not be possible to claim contributory negligence in personal injury claims in cases involving young children or people who are unable to take care of their own wellbeing, except for in extremely unusual circumstances or cases in which the child was directly to blame for their injuries. Adults and older children who could reasonably be expected to know how to take care of their own health and safety are the only people who could be considered to have contributed to their injuries by their negligence.