What is Contributory Negligence?

In many personal accident and injury claims, the matter of blame can be easy to define. Most compensation claims arise due to the failure of a third party to ensure that they are not endangering people or property.


Examples of this could include:


  • Dangerous driving by a third party
  • Faulty equipment in the workplace
  • Trip or fall due to poorly maintained pavements
  • Slip or fall due to wet flooring
  • Accidents occurring due to inadequate warning signs
  • Slip or fall on a wet floor in a supermarket


Those are just six examples of claims where the blame should be clear cut. For example, if a pedestrian or other motorist is injured by a driver who is breaking the speed limit, the question of blame is usually obvious.


There can, however, be circumstances where blame isn’t so evident and/or there may be some fault on both sides. In these cases, we can consider the legal factor of contributory negligence.


As an exact definition, contributory negligence occurs when the injured party has failed to take reasonable care in relation to their personal safety.


What are some examples of contributory negligence?

One of the most common examples of contributory negligence involves inadequate use of safety equipment. For example, your vehicle may be hit by a speeding motorist but what if you are not wearing a seat belt? Similarly, if your car has been poorly maintained then it’s possible that the airbags may not have been operating properly at the time of the accident.


While the third party driver may still be at fault in these cases, it’s clear that injuries are likely to be more severe because the injured party has been negligent in terms of guarding their own safety.


Another example could potentially occur on a building site. If a person suffers injuries due to scaffolding that hasn’t been secured properly or by debris that should not be there, the building site has an obvious duty of care which they have failed to uphold.


But let’s say that the injured party wasn’t wearing a helmet or some other item of protective clothing that had been issued to them. Once again, there is blame on behalf of a third party but it’s almost certain that injuries were made more severe by the negligent attitude to safety undertaken by the injured person.


Both of these are examples of where the negligence of the injured party has contributed to the serious nature of those injuries. They have also been negligent in their actions and hence, we have the term ‘contributory negligence’.


There are other examples of where this phenomenon can occur, but the two scenarios mentioned above are among the most common. Other instances may include injuries to cyclists which are exacerbated by not wearing a helmet.


Failure to follow correct safety procedures on a building site or in any other setting can also lead to a contributory negligence case. Intoxication due to alcohol or drugs may also be a contributory factor and, in the case of assault, any provable level of provocation will be taken into account.


In short, if the court feels that the plaintiff has contributed to their injuries in any form, contributory negligence may be applied.


How are Contributory Negligence Claims Settled?

When courts settle a contributory negligence claim, they take into account the actions of the injured party. Their task is to evaluate the situation and decide on a percentage deduction of compensation based on those actions.


For example, in the case of the injured person not wearing a seatbelt, it’s typical for courts to deduct 25% from the final settlement figure. Therefore, they have decided that the blame is split 75/25 between the third party and the injured person.


Bear in mind that this is just a guideline, and each case will be decided upon its merits. Potentially, there could be other contributory factors besides not wearing a seatbelt. If the injured driver was speeding, for example, the contributory negligence element could be reduced even further.


What if Multiple Parties are at Fault?

Percentage compensation payouts can also be split between multiple third parties. Once again, road accidents are the most common example.


In a multiple traffic collision, the following scenario could potentially occur:


  • Plaintiff is hit in the side by Car A and comes to a halt
  • Car B hits plaintiff in the rear due to excessive speed


In this instance, the court may decide that there is 50/50 blame and the plaintiff’s costs should be split accordingly.


It should also be noted that contributory negligence can apply here: Once again, if the injured party is not wearing a seat belt, for example, then costs can be deducted.


Contributory Negligence Claims Lawyers in Ireland

Any personal injury claim shouldn’t be tackled alone, and it always helps to have an experienced solicitor on your side. In the case of contributory negligence claims, this is a very specialised area of personal injury compensation and one that will need an expert legal eye.


Deductions are likely but it’s a case of mitigating any reduced payment and ensuring that the final settlement is fair to all parties involved.


McGinley Solicitors LLP were established in 1988 and therefore have over 30 years of experience in this particular field. We recognise that injured individuals may hold some responsibility, but all compensation figures need to be fair and shouldn’t take away from the fact that a third party holds the majority of the blame.


We offer a professional service which is designed to get you the best possible result. In the first instance, please give us a call on 1890 998 969 or fill in the online contact form and we will get back to you.


If you are happy for us to take on your claim, we have three offices split across Dublin and Donegal where we can discuss things further. At this point, we can look to identify finer details such as the potential levels of compensation and any possible deductions due to contributory negligence.

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