If you are hurt because of someone else’s negligence, whether it is at work, on the roads, or at the hands of a medical professional, you have every right to make a personal injury compensation claim to compensate you for any pain, suffering or financial loss you have experienced.

But what is the situation if you were partly to blame for the accident that caused your injuries; can you still claim compensation? Martin White, a Partner in the Personal Injury department at WBW Solicitors in Exmouth explains.

The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 provides for apportionment of responsibility for loss between a personal injury claimant and defendant if both have contributed to the damage.

For example, if you are hurt in a fall at work and you were not wearing the safety helmet provided by your employer, you may still be able to claim compensation provided someone else was responsible for the accident.

In this situation, your compensation package would be reduced depending on how much the court feels you are to blame for your injuries. If, for example, the court feels you were 50 per cent responsible for your injuries because you were not wearing a safety helmet, your compensation of £10,000 would be reduced to £5,000.

However, if your injuries had no connection with you not wearing a helmet or you did not receive a head injury, contributory negligence is unlikely to be found.

Following the case of AC Billings v Riden (1957), when assessing contributory negligence in the workplace, the court will decide whether you acted reasonably in taking the risk, considering your age and experience. If you recklessly disregarded accepted practices and procedures it is more likely that contributory negligence will be found, regardless of age or experience.

Other case law illustrates that there are no set rules as to how much your compensation will be reduced by if contributory negligence is found. It will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In Froom v Butcher (1976), for example, the compensation was reduced by 15 per cent as it was felt the claimant’s injuries would have been less serious if they had been wearing a seat belt; while in Davies v Swan Motor Co (1949), the award was reduced by 20 per cent because the claimant was standing in a dangerous spot when he was hit by a lorry.

How a solicitor can help

The rules on contributory negligence can be complex, and in such cases the other party may try to deny any liability. If you have been injured in an accident and want to claim compensation, it is a good idea to seek help from a specialist personal injury lawyer.

They can quickly assess whether you have a valid claim, help you gather the evidence you need to strengthen your case and refer you to a medical expert who will assess how your injury was caused and the effect it has had on your life.

Your solicitor will work hard to negotiate an out-of-court settlement to cater for your needs or be there to offer advice and representation if your case has to go to court.

The compensation you receive will depend on the severity of your injury, your long-term prognosis and how much you were to blame for the accident, but could include damages for:

  • pain and suffering;
  • loss of earnings;
  • care costs;
  • additional medical treatment or rehabilitation;
  • out of pocket expenses; and
  • adaptations required to your home or vehicle.

For further information, please contact Martin White in the personal injury team on 01395 272241 or email martinwhite@wbw.co.uk. WBW Solicitors has offices in Exmouth, Exeter, Honiton, Sidmouth, Newton Abbot, Launceston, Paignton, Torquay, Axminster, Bovey Tracey, Chard and Seaton.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.