50/50 50:50 50-50 fifty fifty

50/50 is a term used where it is thought the blame for an accident is equally shared between those involved.

The term is often used by insurance companies who want to reduce the payment they should make. In law very few cases are truly 50/50, but it is a term too often used in negotiation.

A 50/50 settlement might be suggested where there are no independent witnesses, where it is your word against the word of someone else. You might well be believed in Court, and the other person’s evidence rejected, but the insurance company are not keen to pay the legal costs of finding out. In truth, if you risked paying the legal costs, you might feel less strongly about the fight.

Another situation in which 50/50 settlement is offered is in a case with a low value. Here low value means a personal injury case with an injury worth less than £1,000, or a property only case with a value below £5,000. If you start Court proceedings and win you will recover only very limited legal costs. If you use a solicitor you will have to pay their fee, and that could be more than you are claiming in compensation. The insurance company knows the score, that is they know only a few people will fight, so they try it on and offer 50/50 settlement.

In personal injury cases this sharing of blame comes from the law of contributory negligence. The law would say one party is to blame for an injury because they were negligent or in breach of a statutory duty. It would then look to see if the claimant has contributed to their own injury and loss (the damage is the legal term) through their own carelessness. That contribution is expressed as a percentage, and the compensation is reduced by that percentage.

It might be semantic but the law does not decide liability or fault from two sides at once. The law looks at the defendant and decides if he is liable, and if that is the finding it then looks to the claimant to see if there is contribution to the damage, and if so a percentage is fixed.

Sometimes a defendant will counterclaim saying a claimant is to blame for their damage. One situation where that may happen is where two vehicles collide on the apex of a blind bend on a narrow country land. Each driver or rider has gone into the bend too quickly, proved by the fact the speed was too high to avoid a collision. A 50:50 settlement might be a convenient way to settle such a case, even though you could argue that each driver caused the accident, and each contributed to his own damage by 100 per cent. Legal semantics I appreciate. The reality in cash terms is that each driver would recover half of the compensation due. So if there is no injury, but one car is expensive and the other is not, then the expensive car driver will recover more cash.

Insurance companies will talk about 50-50 settlements. In law the only way to reduce compensation below 100 per cent is to prove contributory negligence. You can read about examples of contributory negligence by clicking here.

One phrase that does get confused with 50/50 is “knock for knock.” Knock for knock was an arrangement which existed between insurance companies. They agreed not to recover their own outlay (the amount they had paid out to their policyholder) from the insurer of the party to blame as they knew the boot would be on the other foot next time. This saved the expense of arguing, and claimants were left to seek compensation alone if they wanted to. The knock for knock arrangement stuck for many years, but as new players muscled into the insurance market they did not want to play by the old rules, and knock for knocked was kicked into touch. The end of knock for knock is one of the reasons your insurance company might be keen you make a claim if someone else was at fault. You can then run a claim, potentially at your own expense, and recover the outlay of your own insurer. Insurance companies also make a lot of money from referrals fees paid by solicitors who accept referred cases.

Settlement of any compensation claim is a matter of law, but it is also a matter of convenience and pragmatism. The answer is to be confident of the circumstances of your accident, to identify witnesses, and gather all information. Then have that assessed by an experienced expert solicitor. Contact us for expert advice.

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