Contributory negligence

What is contributory negligence?

We specialise in dealing with compensation claims nationwide, including those involving allegations of contributory negligence. Contact our free injury helpline for guidance on your claim.

Contributory negligence is the legal principle that if a person is partially at fault for their own losses, their compensation may be reduced in proportion to their share of responsibility. It is a concept that often surfaces in personal injury cases, and its implications can significantly affect the outcome for both claimants and defendants.

An example of how courts approach contributory negligence can be seen in the case of Owens v Lewis [2024], presided over by HHJ Keyser KC. This case highlights the considerations that courts must take into account in determining the extent to which a claimant’s actions may have contributed to their own harm.

In Owens v Lewis, the claimant, a 16-year-old, suffered severe injuries after falling from a quad bike driven by the defendant, a 15-year-old.

The law allows for an adjustment of a claimant’s compensation based on their level of responsibility. This adjustment is determined by what is “just and equitable,” considering the specifics of each case.

In this case, primary liability was not contested; the defendant admitted to negligence by allowing the claimant to ride as a passenger on a quad bike not designed for multiple passengers, without helmets, and at an unsafe speed on a public road. The court’s task was to ascertain the extent of the claimant’s contributory negligence.

The judgment underscored the individual circumstances of the case, emphasizing the defendant’s significant fault in offering the quad bike ride under dangerous conditions and driving recklessly. However, it also recognized the claimant’s own responsibility in agreeing to the risky ride.

The court’s ruling reduced the claimant’s compensation by 30%, reflecting a balanced view that, while the claimant bore some responsibility, the greater fault lay with the defendant’s actions. This judgment serves as a reminder of the law’s aim to allocate responsibility fairly, considering the actions and decisions of all involved parties on a case-by-case basis.

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Contributory negligence
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