Contributory Negligence

When accidents happen, sometimes the injured person may find that they are partly to blame for it.  This is not however to say you are wholly to blame.  In the vast bulk of cases your opponent will bear the lion’s share of the blame.  If this happens you will still recover compensation but it will be reduced to take account of your “contribution” to the cause of the accident.  This is normally on a percentage basis such as 50/50 or 80/20.  The important thing is that you will still recover some compensation.


  • In a road traffic accident claim, if you do not wear your seatbelt then your damages may be reduced by a percentage if it can be shown that ‘had you worn your seatbelt your injuries would not have been as severe.’ 
  • If you are cleaning machinery at work whilst it is still running, your employers may be responsible for your accident for allowing this practice to take place, but your damages may be reduced by a percentage because you contributed to your own accident by not switching the machinery off first.

I dealt with an accident claim whereby two youths lifted a board off the ground intending to use it as a ramp for skateboarding.  One youth fell through the manhole which it was covering.  My client succeeded with his claim (the board should have been fixed down), but his damages were reduced by a percentage because he was partly to blame for his own accident by removing the board in the first place.

Accident Claim Birmingham - blind ladyA case where contributory negligence did not apply was when I represented a partially blind lady in an accident claim who tripped over a fallen down road sign which had been left in the road by contractors.  The works had been completed but they failed to remove the sign.  Contributory negligence did not apply here because my client could not see the road sign due to her poor eyesight.

The law

The law is found in The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 which provides that:- “if any person suffers damage as a result partly of his own fault and partly of the fault of any other person… damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced by such extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant’s share in responsibility for the damage.”

You may think that you cannot claim because you contributed to your own accident, but as you can see from the above examples you may still succeed in an accident claim, with a reduction for contributory negligence.

If you have had an accident and you think it is your own fault, it is always worthwhile giving us a call so we can advise you properly.  It may be that you can still recover some damages.