Have you or anyone you know ever suffered an injury in a road crash, or maybe been hurt in an accident at work, only to be told not to pursue compensation because you were partly to blame?
It is something our specialist team at Hudgell Solicitors hear from many people who call us for advice, yet compensation settlements are regularly secured for such people even though it is proved and accepted they had been partly at fault.
Such a claim is referred to in legal circles as Contributory Negligence and can cover a wide range of situations where an individual’s actions contribute to them suffering an injury.
Obvious examples where a person may have contributed to the extent of the injuries they suffer, include;
- Getting into a vehicle knowing or believing a driver to be over the drink or drug drive limit.
- Getting into a car and not wearing a seatbelt.
- Failing to check for oncoming traffic as a pedestrian.
- Not wearing specific protective clothing or failing to follow an agreed safety process at work.
In each of the situations outlined above, the actions of the individual would not be a direct cause of an accident.
However, their actions would be a contributory factor in the extent of the injuries they suffer, likely leading to their injuries being more serious.
The legal process and the importance of evidence
It is important to understand that your actions will be questioned by a third party or the defendants when making an injury compensation claim, and although that may not prevent you from securing a damages settlement, it may have an impact on the amount you finally receive.
It is therefore important, in any case where there is some dispute over blame and fault, that a claimant has evidence to support their claim.
Injuries caused by the opening of car doors are quite common, especially with cyclists and motorcyclists, as drivers and rear seat passengers often open their door without first checking that it is safe to do so.
One case I was involved in involved a cyclist who faced allegations of being partly to blame after being injured.
He was eventually found not to have contributed to the injuries he suffered as the driver opened his door just after pulling into the side of the road.
There were two issues in this case. Firstly, road users (which includes car drivers as well as cyclists and motorcyclists) are advised to allow at least a doors width between themselves and the stationary vehicle.
This, or course, is not always feasible or practicable depending on the location and circumstances.
But in the same vein, vehicle occupants also have a duty of care to ensure that it is safe before they open the door (there is actually a specific offence of negligently opening a door).
Such cases can cause a lot of debate and argument as it will all depend on the circumstances and the evidence available as to whether a claimant is found to have been contributory negligent.
If that is found to be the case, the defence must then establish and prove what impact these actions had on the circumstances surrounding the accident or the nature of the injuries sustained.
A percentage of blame will be determined according to the facts, the evidence, and of course whether the claimant’s actions were considered reasonable, and that will impact on the final damages settlement agreed.
To simplify, an injury claim valued at £100,000, but in which the defendant is found 50% to blame, would see damages halved to £50,000, whereas a 25% blame would result in a £75,000 damages settlement.
The best advice if you have been injured and told not to claim because you were also partly at fault is not to just accept it but to ask questions and seek some expert legal advice.
You may just be surprised to find that you do indeed have a claim, and even if you are considered jointly 50% at fault (split liability) then 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing, and can make a huge difference to lessening the impact of the injury on your life.