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I Am Not Sure If I Am Partly To Blame For My Accident, Can I Still Make A Claim?

The short answer is yes, however if you succeed in claiming compensation, the amount you receive may be reduced accordingly to reflect your share of responsibility.

It is possible to make a claim for personal injury compensation even if you (the Claimant) think that you contributed to the chain of events which led to the accident or if you think your actions made your injuries worse. It is up to the Defendant to try and argue that you are partially at fault or a contributor to the accident which caused your injuries. This is known as ‘Contributory Negligence’ and it is a common argument raised by Defendants in personal injury claims.

What is Contributory Negligence?

Some accidents are straightforward when deciding who is responsible for the accident but there are plenty of cases where the circumstances can be difficult to establish who is at fault. Some common examples include:

  • A pedestrian not looking for oncoming traffic when crossing the road
  • A passenger failing to wear their seatbelt
  • A passenger getting into a vehicle with a drunk driver
  • A cyclist not wearing a helmet
  • An employee not wearing PPE at work

Whilst the Claimant may not have been responsible for the accident itself, they may have contributed to it and the Court will take this into account when assessing the amount of compensation.

If a Defendant wishes to pursue an allegation of contributory negligence against the Claimant they must allege, plead and prove that the Claimant contributed to their injury by failing to take all reasonable care for their own safety.

Section 1(1) of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 (LR(CN)A 1945) provides:

‘Where any person suffers damage as the result partly of his own fault and partly of the fault of another person or persons, a claim in respect of that damage shall not be defeated by reason of the fault of the person suffering the damage, but the damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced to such extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant’s share in the responsibility.’

So for example if it’s decided that you were 25% responsible for an accident that caused your injuries, your compensation would be 25% less than it would have been if you were totally not at fault.

Recent case I have worked on

Our client was driving his motorcycle behind a car that he assumed was travelling straight on as the car was not indicating. Our client wanted to turn right so he positioned his motorcycle to the right of the car in front and proceeded to turn into the road. As our client did this, the car in front of him also turned right into the road, hitting our client and causing him injuries and losses.

The police report attributed some blame to both parties as it suggested the Defendant made a ‘poor turn or manoeuvre’ and that our client ‘failed to look properly’.

The Defendant made a liability offer of 50/50 and we made a counter offer of 90/10 in our client’s favour. This is because we believe whilst our client was accused of failing to look properly, the Defendant was accused of ‘poor turn or manoeuvre’, which if elaborated must mean failing to look properly in addition to failing to indicate and moving when he should not have done. As such our client cannot be held equally responsible for the accident when the Defendant carries a larger apportionment of liability.

Case law from the higher courts suggest there was a likelihood that a Judge would apportion some contributory negligence to our client’s claim. We therefore made a further liability offer of 80/20 in our client’s favour following which a 70/30 split was agreed between both parties.

A successful argument of contributory negligence could have a huge impact on the amount of compensation you receive for a personal injury claim therefore it is crucial to seek legal advice. At Hodge Jones & Allen, we have experienced personal injury lawyers who regularly challenge arguments of contributory negligence raised by Defendants in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your claim.

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident and are unsure whether you should make a claim and wish to discuss your situation with our leading personal injury solicitors, please call us today on 0808 250 1023 or request a call back online.