Accidents happen and sometimes it is nobody’s fault, but what if you were partly to blame for the accident that caused your injuries? What effect does this have on the amount of compensation you can claim? Jane Couch, personal injury solicitor at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot explains.

Contributory negligence can arise in a variety of ways. For example, if you were injured in a road traffic accident and your injuries were worsened because you were not wearing a seat belt; or if you are pedestrian hit by a car which was being driven too fast but you were partly to blame because you did not look properly before crossing the road.

To successfully claim compensation for your injuries, you need to prove that the person responsible was negligent. This means showing they owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty of care and, that as a result of that breach, you suffered the harm that you are claiming compensation for.

In most cases, the person responsible for your injuries would be found to be negligent if their actions had failed to meet the standard of what the ‘reasonable man’ would do in the same situation.

If the other party is completely to blame for your injuries, they will be required to pay 100 per cent of the compensation you are awarded. Conversely, if the accident was totally your fault, you would receive nothing.

Things get more complicated, however, if the accident was partially your fault. The law provides for apportionment of responsibility for loss between a personal injury claimant and defendant if both have contributed to the damage.

This means that your final compensation award may be reduced depending on how much a court feels you were to blame. So, if you are found to be 30 per cent at fault, your compensation could be reduced by 30 per cent to reflect this.

The case law illustrates that there are no hard and fast rules as to how much your compensation will be reduced by if contributory negligence is found – this 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 severe if they had been wearing a seat belt; while in Davies v Swan Motor Co [1949], damages were reduced by 20 per cent because the claimant was standing in a hazardous place when he was hit by a lorry.

How a solicitor can help

The rules on contributory negligence can be complicated, and there are always cases where someone responsible for an accident will try and palm off blame onto other parties involved. If you have been injured in an accident, therefore, you are strongly advised to seek help from a specialist personal injury lawyer.

They can quickly assess whether you have a claim worth pursuing, 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 you the out-of-court settlement to cater for your needs or guide you through the process if your case has to go to court.

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

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of earnings;
  • Disadvantage on the labour market;
  • Care costs;
  • Additional medical treatment or rehabilitation;
  • Out-of-pocket expenses;and
  • adaptations required to your home or vehicle. 

For further information, please contact Jane Couch in the personal injury team on 01626 202409 or email janecouch@wbw.co.uk.  WBW Solicitors has offices  throughout Devon and into Cornwall and are willing to travel to see you.

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.