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Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

An Explanation of Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

In the context of personal injury compensation claims, contributory negligence in personal injury cases is a term that has dual meanings. It can first refer to the contribution you have personally made to an accident or the severity of your injuries. It can also refer to the situation where multiple parties – but not including yourself – have been responsible for causing an accident in which you have suffered an injury, loss or the deterioration of an existing condition.

The two types of contributory negligence in personal injury cases are referred to as “First Party Contributory Negligence” and “Third Party Contributory Negligence.” “First Party Contributory Negligence” refers to accidents and injuries for which you are partly responsible due to your own lack of care, whereas “Third Party Contributory Negligence” refers to situations which have been caused by the negligence of others.

First Party Contributory Negligence: How You May Have Contributed to an Accident

An example of this type of contributory negligence in personal injury cases which has led to the cause of an accident would be if a piece of equipment you were using at work was regularly overheating, but you neglected to report it. If the equipment subsequently overheated to such a degree that you experienced a burn trauma, your first party contributory negligence in not reporting the fault could lead to a decrease in the value of the personal injury compensation claim that you would be entitled to receive to reflect your lack of care.

Your employer has an obligation to identify hazards in the workplace by regular safety inspections and by monitoring the performance of his or her employees, so you would still be entitled to some compensation for your injury. However, your degree of neglect to report an unsafe piece of equipment would be taken into account when evaluating the settlement of injury compensation.

Your Possible Contribution to Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

If you fail to seek medical attention as soon as you are aware that you have sustained an injury, you may also be penalised for your own lack of care. In most instances, common sense would prevail and you would attend your local hospital’s Accident and Emergency department or make an emergency appointment to see your doctor.  However, some people will work through the pain or during the deterioration of a physical condition, thereby exacerbating the injury to much worse than it was when the accident happened.

In this case, an example of first party contributory negligence would be if you injured your back in a manual handling accident for which your employer was to blame and, rather than attending your doctor, you carried on working until such time as you were in agony. If you had advised an employer that you had sustained an injury, but had continued to work by your own choice, your employer is not liable for any manual handling work compensation beyond the original injury.

The Onus – Was it my Fault? Or Wasn´t it my Fault?

There are times when you – or the person responsible for your injuries – may consider that you did indeed contribute to your injuries, when in fact this is not the case. You would not incur a penalty in the following example of a “grey area”: Suppose you were walking along the aisle of a shop, browsing the products on the shelves, and slipped on a pool of bright green liquid which had leaked from a refrigeration unit. If you subsequently fractured your wrist as a result of the accident, you would not be penalised.

You may consider that the onus of the accident is on you as you should have looked where you were walking and noticed something as obvious as a pool of bright green liquid. However, shops encourage you to look at the items on their shelves and, due to their marketing strategy, you will be considered not to have played any part in your trauma or accident.

Your compensation claim will be unaffected by the concept of contributory negligence in personal injury cases, provided that you sought professional medical attention as soon as possible and did not solely rely on the first aid provided in the shop.

How Special Damages Can Be Affected by First Party Contributory Negligence

The special damages element of a personal injury compensation claim enables your recovery of any quantifiable financial costs you have incurred which can be directly attributed to your injury. Should you be found to be (say) 25 percent responsible for exacerbating an injury or causing an accident, you will only receive 75 percent of your total compensation settlement, which includes special damages.

The significance of this is that special damages also include any income loss that you may experience while being unable to work.  As a result, if you are off work for a considerable time period, you will have to exist on 25 percent less income than you are accustomed to. Furthermore, any state benefits you receive prior to the resolution of your personal injury compensation claim will have to be paid back at 100 percent, thereby further decreasing your net compensation settlement.

Multiple Third Parties – Sharing the Blame

The term contributory negligence can also be used to express the percentage liability of each party in cases where multiple third parties are liable for causing an accident in which you have sustained a trauma. This is exemplified by a situation where multiple vehicles are involved in a road traffic accident. The first driver may have caused an accident in which you were injured as a result of his lack of care, but a second driver compounded your injuries by not stopping in a reasonable amount of time and causing a second collision.

Your entitlement to compensation is not affected when multiple third parties are responsible for causing an accident in which you are injured. However, a delay may occur in the receipt of three car crash compensation while insurance companies representing the two negligent parties negotiate the level of liability that is attributable to each. If a delay is likely to create a financial problem for you, you are best advised to discuss with a solicitor the possibility of receiving interim payments of compensation until such time as there is a resolution of your three car crash claim.

Summary of Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

Any claim for personal injury in which contributory negligence applies in any form will probably be more complicated and take longer to resolve than anticipated. However, it is better for your solicitor to be aware that contributory negligence may constitute an issue when you first discuss the circumstance surrounding your trauma and eligibility for a personal injury compensation claim.

You are advised to explain the circumstances of your accident and injury with an experienced solicitor at the first possible opportunity, if you are unsure whether your claim for personal injury compensation may be affected by either your contributory negligence in personal injury cases, or the contributory negligence of others, that is, whether first party contributory negligence or third party contributory negligence applies.