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Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Claims

Contributory negligence in personal injury claims can have two different meanings. It can refer to your own contribution towards causing your injury or accident, or it can refer to multiple parties — excluding you — who are responsible for an accident through their carelessness which has resulted in you suffering a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition.

An incident where you are partially to blame due to a lack of care on your behalf is known as ‘First Party Contributory Negligence’. Accidents which have been caused by others causing you a loss or injury are referred to as ‘Third Party Contributory Negligence.’

First Party Contributory Negligence

An example of first party contributory negligence in personal injury claims would be if you were employed as a truck driver and were aware that the brakes were failing but, through your own carelessness, chose not to report this – eventually the brakes completely failing and causing an accident in which you sustained an injury. Your first party contributory negligence to the accident was failing to report a fault with the brakes.

Your employer would also have contributed to the accident by failing to carry out a regular service of the vehicle, so you would still be entitled to compensation due to your employer’s negligence, but the amount awarded will be reduced if it is deemed that by failing to report the brake fault you contributed to the accident.

How You May Have Contributed to an Injury

A failure to seek medical attention as soon as you become aware of your injury may also have consequences, as you could be penalised for a lack of care following your injury.

Generally common sense will prevail after sustaining an injury and you will have attended the Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital or visited your GP; as in most cases your injury will require immediate medical attention. However, some people will choose to work through the pain, risking additional damage to the injury caused by an accident or causing further injury to a condition which has developed due to the environment they work in.

In this instance an example of first party contributory negligence would be if you injured your back carrying out manual labour. Your employer was to blame for the original injury but rather than seek out medical attention immediately you chose to carry on working until you were in agony and could no longer continue.

Initially you chose not to inform your employer you were injured, so you would not be entitled to any additional work compensation beyond the sum awarded for the original injury sustained in the accident.

Was it my Fault or Not?

Contributory negligence in personal injury claims can be quite a grey area- especially when you or the person responsible for your injuries may believe you contributed to the accident, when in reality you did not.

For example; if you were walking down the aisle of a supermarket, perusing items on the shelf, and slipped on a pool of liquid that had leaked from a product – leaving you with a fractured wrist -, you would not be penalised.

Although you may believe you contributed to your accident by not looking where you were walking, the supermarket would be completely responsible because, through attractive marketing, they encourage customers to look at their shelves rather than anywhere else.

Assuming you sought professional medical attention as soon as possible — not relying solely on first aid provided by the supermarket- your compensation claim will not be affected by contributory negligence.

How Special Damages are affected by First Party Contributory Negligence

Special damages are the costs awarded to cover any financial loss you may have incurred as a direct result of your injury. This includes any loss of income suffered if you are unable to work so, if you are found to have contributed to your accident, it can have severe financial implications for you.

If your first party contributory negligence is found to have been 25 per cent responsible for causing an accident or exacerbating an injury, you will only receive 75 per cent of the total compensation settlement. This means that you will also receive only 75 per cent of the total amount of wages you may have been entitled to due to your injury.

Additionally any social welfare you received while awaiting a resolution to your personal injury compensation claim will have to be paid back in full, which will further reduce the net value of the settlement amount awarded.

Sharing the Blame between Multiple Third Parties

The blame for an injury can also be shared between several parties who are proportionately liable for causing an accident in which you were injured. An example of multiple third party contributory negligence is if you are injured in a road accident involving several vehicles. Your injuries may have initially been caused by the first driver due to his lack of care, but a second driver compounded your injuries by failing to stop in time and causing a second collision.

The level of compensation you are entitled to will not be affected by the number of third parties responsible for your injuries but there may be a delay in this instance in the resolution of your claim, as the insurance companies representing the two (or more) negligent parties will have to negotiate the percentage of third party contributory negligence that should be attributed to each.

A delay may cause you financial problems; so it is worthwhile consulting with a personal injury solicitor to investigate the possibility of receiving interim payments of compensation until the claim involving multiple third party contributory negligence is resolved.

Summary of Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Claims

If contributory negligence is a factor in your personal injury claim, it can reduce how much compensation for a personal injury you may be entitle to and your claim may take longer to resolve. It is best advised to make your solicitor aware of the possibility of contributory negligence when you first discuss the circumstances of your accident, as it will help him or her determine your eligibility to claim for personal injury compensation.