Contributory negligence or partly to blame

Contributory negligence, or partial fault, is an important subject and worthy of its own section.

You prove your case by showing you were injured by someone who did not take reasonable care for your safety. They might be able to show you were partially to blame and contributed to the injury. Your contribution is assessed as a percentage. That same percentage is knocked off your compensation. That may sound fair enough, but the effect is harsh. Losing 50 per cent of a £2,000 claim may not be the end of the world, but in a larger case, where most of the compensation is ear-marked to pay for long term care, losing even a small percentage for contributory negligence, can be very expensive indeed.

Even if liability is admitted in your case, contributory negligence can still be argued against you. An admission of liability alone does not mean you will receive full compensation. You need confirmation that contributory negligence is not to be argued. A simple example is a car and pedestrian road accident. A car should be driven in such a way that the driver can safely stop or avoid anything or anyone in its path. So, if a pedestrian is hit by a car on a road, the pedestrian will usually succeed. The closer the car is to a pedestrian when he or she steps into the road, the more likely is a finding of contributory negligence.

A regular argument against the claim of a motorcyclist is speed. “I did not see you” says the car driver, but if you had been riding more slowly I would have seen you.

Contributory negligence is often agreed, or, if not agreed, assessed by a Court. Contributory negligence is often used in negotiations as a way of persuading a claimant to accept less than the full value of their case. In a case where contributory negligence has not been agreed or decided on by a Court, this argument will hang over you.

Do not quickly accept contributory negligence. The test for negligence is not high. Have you failed to take reasonable care for the safety of someone else? That is the test for negligence and a low standard of proof is applied. Called the balance of probabilities, something must be shown to be more likely than not. This means it is not difficult to show someone is at fault and, on the other side of the argument, it may not be difficult to show you have contributed.

Where does the balance of responsibility lie? Someone driving a large and heavy metal object, such as a car, must take greater care than a pedestrian. An employer has responsibility for the work place and equipment, so carries that additional level of responsibility. Do not forget this balance when thinking about contributory negligence.

Examples of contributory negligence.

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