Contributory negligence in personal injury claims

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Contributory negligence in personal injury claims
  • How fault is determined
  • Causation
  • Responsibility
  • Apportionment
  • Failure to wear seat belts
  • Failure to wear a crash helmet (motorcyclists)
  • Children
  • Road traffic accidents
  • Accidents at work

Contributory negligence in personal injury claims

Contributory negligence is a partial defence which can lead to a discount in damages.

Other defences may also be relevant. See Practice Notes: Did the claimant consent to the risk of injury? and Was the claimant involved in an illegal activity?

If a defendant wishes to pursue an allegation of contributory negligence 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.’

Courts express a finding of contributory negligence as a percentage or fraction of the damages.

Contributory negligence involves a comparison of the fault of the claimant and the defendant.

How fault is determined

LR(CN)A 1945, s 4 defines ‘fault’ as:

‘negligence, breach of statutory duty or other act or omission which gives rise to a liability in tort or would, apart from this Act, give

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