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Definition of Contributory Negligence

The definition of contributory negligence in claims for personal injury compensation is two-fold. It can refer to either the contribution a person makes to their own injury, or to the contribution made by one or more parties — not including the victim. “First Party Contributory Negligence” is the term used to describe when a person is partly to blame for their own injuries or accident; “Third Party Contributory Negligence” is when your injuries have been caused by more than one party, but not by you.

How You May Have Contributed to Your Own Injury

The definition of contributory negligence may be applied to all instances in which claiming personal injury compensation for an injury may be possible. An example of “First Party Contributory Negligence” is if a factory worker who was knowingly using a piece of faulty equipment regularly was later injured in an accident involving the piece of equipment. Although the worker would be entitled to compensation, as their employer had an obligation to identify and neutralise any environmental hazards in the workplace, the worker’s own carelessness in not ceasing to work with a piece of equipment which he knew was faulty would also be taken into consideration and the effect of contributory negligence on any settlement would be considered.

How much compensation the worker would lose out on would depend on to what extent he/she contributed to their own injury.

How Can You Tell If You Were Partly Responsible for Your Own Injury?

There are instances in which you or the person against whom you are claiming compensation may believe that you are partly responsible for your own injury, when in fact you are not. Here is an example of a “grey area” in which the application of contributory negligence would appear to be debatable:-

Would contributory negligence in personal injury claims apply if you were browsing a supermarket’s shelves and slipped on a pool of bright orange liquid which had leaked from the rear of a freezer and fractured your wrist?

It is understandable if in this scenario you believed that you contributed to your own injury and therefore that the effect of contributory negligence would factor in your claim. You may believe that you may found to be partly responsible for your own injury as you should have been looking where you were walking, and that if you had done so, you would have noticed the pool of liquid on the ground below you.

Although the definition of contributory negligence would appear to apply, the scenario in which you injured yourself would see the supermarket take full responsibility as their marketing strategy — to have customers browse their shelves and nowhere else — does not encourage customers to look at the ground as they walk through the aisles.

Provided that you sought medical attention as soon as possible after your injury and did not settle for first aid at the supermarket, you should not be found to have contributed to your own injury.

Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Claims and Special Damages

The special damages element of a personal injury compensation claims settlement enables you to pursue reimbursement for any material quantifiable expenses which you incurred as a result of your injury. If you were to be found to have contributed to your own injury, but were only 25 percent at fault, you would only receive 75 percent of your settlement — including special damages.

The significance of special damages in relation to the definition of contributory negligence is the effect of contributory negligence on the amount of compensation which you may be eligible to receive for being unable to work if you are found to have been partly responsible for your own injury. This means that if the value of your settlement is cut by 25 percent, you will have to live on 25 percent less income than you received before your accident. Furthermore, certain type of state benefits which you may have received while you were recuperating would have to be repaid 100 percent.

Definition of Contributory Negligence and Allocating Blame Among Multiple Third Parties

The definition of contributory negligence in accidents in which more than one party — but not you — was responsible for your injuries refers to the allocation of blame between them. The most obvious example of when more than one party is responsible for your injuries is a road traffic accident.

In road traffic accidents it can often be that more than one driver is at fault for an accident. If for example you were injured in a car crash due to a lack of care demonstrated by another road user, only to have more damage caused by a second vehicle which collided with your vehicle after failing to stop in time to avoid the crash site, you may be able to claim compensation from both drivers.

It is worth noting that although the effect of contributory negligence would see both drivers pay a portion of your settlement, the amount of compensation to which you would be entitled would not change.

Three-car compensation can often be subject to delays as the various insurance companies representing the negligent parties negotiate over how to split liability. If your short-term financial situation is a concern, your solicitor may be able to organise interim payments until a solution is agreed upon.

Definition of Contributory Negligence — Summary

Factoring in the effect of contributory negligence in personal injury compensation claims can often make a claim more complex and difficult to resolve. If you believe that you have contributed to your own injury you should inform a solicitor at the first possible opportunity. Making a solicitor aware that you may be partly responsible for your own injury at the earliest possible opportunity will allow them to better serve you in negotiations with a liable party.

Whether or not you believe that the definition of contributory negligence applies to your claim for compensation, or whether or not you believe that you contributed to your own injury, you should speak with a personal injury claims solicitor about your claim for compensation at the earliest possible opportunity.