Contributory Negligence

by Daniel Menell

This is also known as split liability and it is an important concept for a Claimant to understand in many claims for personal injury. In the blink of an eye, the value of your claim for compensation could be reduced by 50% or more, so itís as well to have a grasp of the topic.

"Contributory Negligence" (i.e. the injured party contributed to their own accident) or "split liability" (liability is split between the parties) is always lurking in the background ready to rear itís ugly head!

To pursue any claim for personal injury compensation, you will have to prove liability, i.e. prove that the defendant was legally to blame for your accident. There are circumstances however, where at least part of the blame for an accident lies with the injured person themselves.

Although we all owe each other a duty of care in almost everything we do, we are also responsible for our own safety and welfare. For example, perhaps someone tripped on a very uneven pavement. If the defect in the pavement was so large and obvious that it should have been seen by the pedestrian, then it is likely that they may be found partly to blame. After all, had they been keeping a lookout, the accident could have been avoided altogether. There are many types of accident where split liability may be appropriate but some common examples may include:-

  • Failing to heed a wet floor sign and slipping over;
  • Failing to notice a floor was wet and falling over;
  • Failing to notice an obvious tripping or slipping hazard;
  • Failing to carry out lifting in accordance with manual handling training received;
  • Crossing the road at a dangerous location;

Allegations of contributory negligence are fairly common in road traffic accidents. It is often a matter of common sense, so try to look at your accident circumstances as objectively as possible to consider whether any blame can be said to attach to you. It is also worth noting that there is no maximum finding of contributory negligence, and although not common, a 100% finding would obviously leave the injured party with nothing.

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