What is contributory negligence?

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Contributory negligence refers to situations where the injured person is partially at fault for (or has contributed to) the accident which caused their injuries. This is an issue that must be considered at the beginning of any personal injury claim. As long as primary liability can be established against the Defendant, the Claimant will be entitled to compensation.

However if the Claimant was partly responsible for the accident, then it is likely that the Defendant will raise the issue of contributory negligence and seek to reduce the amount of compensation they have to pay accordingly.

Contributory negligence is often negotiated and agreed between the parties. If it cannot be agreed it will be assessed by the Court. If contributory negligence is established the Claimant’s damages will be reduced by the same proportion to reflect their negligence; i.e. if the Claimant is deemed to be 20% liable for their injuries then their damages will also be reduced by 20%.

By way of example, if the Claimant’s personal injury claim was worth £5,000 and they were held to be 20% contributory negligent, their damages would be reduced by 20% and they would ultimately receive £4,000.

Frances Gillett of Trethowans LLP says "Contributory negligence is often raised by the Defendant in personal injury cases. It is essential that Claimants receive expert advice if allegations of contributory negligence are raised against them. This will ensure that any possible reduction in damages is properly assessed and the Claimant does not concede too much".