Contributory Negligence

What is Contributory Negligence for Injury Compensation Claims?

The cause of any accident is not always necessarily clear, and to know what contributory negligence is may be crucial in terms of injury compensation claims. Of course, one party may be completely at fault in a road traffic accident, or an employer may have shown total disregard to safety legislation leading to an accident at work, but there are many instances where contributory negligence in injury compensation claims can affect how long it takes for an injury compensation claim to be resolved or how much compensation is awarded to the plaintiff.

Contributory Negligence when Multiple Parties are Involved

It is often possible that more than one, or even many, parties played a role in an accident that occurred. When this situation arises, liability for the cause of an accident is shared among the negligent parties on a percentage basis – with each party then responsible for that percentage of the resulting compensation settlement.

A good example of this situation is a ‘pile-up’ road traffic accident whereby car A caused the initial accident by breaking a red light and collided with car B. Car C however was driving too quickly and was not able to stop in time and consequently crashed into the back of car B – causing further damage and injury. As the plaintiff, B will then sue both A and C whose insurers will, in all probability, agree to accept liability for B’s injuries and damage on a percentage basis e.g. A may agree to pay 70 percent of B’s compensation while C will pay the other 30 percent.

Provided that the insurance firms agree quickly on the proportion of blame that should be attributed to their policyholders, there should be no hold up in the receipt of your personal injury compensation award, but please be aware it is unlikely that the Injuries Board Ireland will process an application for assessment without a prior agreement concerning the division of liability and you may need to employ the use of a solicitor to resolve your personal injury claim.

What Role does Personal Contributory Negligence Play?

Contributory negligence in injury compensation claims can also apply when the plaintiff may possibly have contributed to the cause of an accident by behaving in a negligent manner when faced with the obvious and known conditions or by exacerbating their injury by their own lack of care and attention.

Perhaps the understandable example of what contributory negligence is, and that which is best recognised by the public, is the failure to wear a seatbelt in a road traffic accident. If you make a personal injury claim and the other driver can prove that you were not wearing a seatbelt when the accident occurred, your total claim for injury compensation will normally be reduced by 25%.

The reasons behind this principle are rather simple. First of all, we are required by law (with very few exceptions) to wear a seatbelt regardless of whether we are driving or travelling as a passenger in an automobile, and secondly, it is assumed that in all likelihood the injuries suffered by the plaintiff would have been less serious had he or she had been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

It is less well-known that failing to seek professional medical attention as soon as possible after suffering an injury in an accident for which you were not at fault can also be interpreted as contributory negligence in injury compensation claims. Many potential claimants are surprised to be made aware that they are not entitled to a full compensation settlement for their injuries when they have made them worse by delaying a medical examination at a hospital or doctor’s surgery.

The administration of first aid at the scene of an accident or treating what may appear to be minor injuries when you return home is not adequate evidence that an injury has occurred, and any unjustifiable gap between the date of your accident and when your injuries are recorded in your medical notes is likely to be questioned by the defendant´s legal representative or their insurers.

The principle of contributory negligence in injury compensation claims may later be used by a defendant as a defence (or perhaps more appropriately a partial defence) in order to reduce the amount of compensation that will be paid to the plaintiff.

Summary

  • Contributory negligence determines the amount of blame for an accident in which you have sustained an injury
  • You may be accused of contributory negligence if you are not completely faultless for the accident or fail to seek immediate medical treatment
  • The degree of your contributory negligence will affect the final total of personal injury compensation that may be awarded to you
  • A solicitor will be able to figure out whether contributory negligence in personal injury claims applies to the case as part of his assessment

It is important to note that each case is completely different. If you have recently been involved in an accident and feel that you have a possible personal injury claim you are advised to talk about all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity.



This is an Information site only – if you feel you have a potential claim, you should discuss your situation with a solicitor registered with the Law Society of Ireland.