Understanding Contributory Negligence: Personal injury claims are always fairly emotional and tense affairs from a claimant and defendant’s standpoint. If a claim goes to court, the pressure is on both teams to either prove guilt and responsibility or a lack thereof. While the proving of these things is typically complicated, the concepts of fault and innocence really aren’t too hard to understand.

In addition, almost all personal injury claims can be traced back to a third party that, in some way, failed to ensure that a property or a person was safe by their actions.

There are, naturally, countless scenarios where these sorts of incidents can arise. Road accidents, workplace incidents like slips and falls, or accidents in shops are all very common settings where other people’s negligence can lead to injuries. However, there are some instances where this definition simply isn’t so easily applied. Enter the legal concept of contributory negligence. 

First Line Of Defence

Contributory negligence is the understanding that blame isn’t so actually so black and white in a claim, and a claimant essentially fails to take certain measures to ensure their own safety. A good example is having a road accident but not wearing a seatbelt or being distracted by a passenger. The injuries incurred are now, in theory, more severe as a result.


It’s very common to see someone fail to use the equipment correctly, or fail to use it, leading to injury, too. Not wearing a helmet, operating machinery incorrectly, or not heeding warning signs are all scenarios where blame suddenly is a blurred line. Due to the large range of ways someone might contribute to their own injury, all sorts of legal precedents can be called upon. 

Drug or alcohol testing, for example, might be used as a defense, to claim a plaintiff was intoxicated during the receipt of an injury. Obviously, this can become even more complicated quite easily. What if we introduce a third, or fourth person to the party of people who also could have contributed to an injury?

Some specialist firms offer detailed guidance on how much more layered a case can become, for example, McGinley Solicitors, who run through what can happen with multiple parties involved within a personal injury claim. But we can at least explore how courts typically try to resolve these sorts of cases.

Contributory Negligence

Half A Dozen Of The Other

Courts are tasked with being almost forensic in the way they present and consider the facts of a case. They have to try and eventually quantify the events into degrees of fault. Luckily, it is possible, and pretty common, for courts to ‘divvy’ up blame, and award or charge compensation in percentages for and against parties depending on degrees of fault. 

There are naturally some small differences between figures, but you’ll commonly see up to 25% taken off a settlement amount for something like not wearing a seatbelt. If the car of the injured person was also speeding at the time, that figure might increase even higher.

Courts will always take every case on its merits but a claimant will need to be upfront and honest about any potential contributor negligence that can fall against their case. It can have severe impacts on a settlement figure. 

Personal injury claims, like any legal case, have to be evaluated impartially, to what can almost feel like an unfeeling degree. It’s a harsh reality of the mechanisms of law, but a necessary one. Without it, a just outcome is almost impossible to guarantee, and with the many scenarios that can lead to injury, it’s for good reasons that concepts like contributory negligence exist. 

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