Contributory Negligence: If you’re partially at fault, can you sue?

"Contributory negligence” is a term thrown around a lot in tort law, but do you really know what it means? Consider a car accident between two vehicles where each person insists the other is at fault. What happens if both sides are deemed partially at fault? Lawyers use contributory negligence to help solve this problem.

What is Contributory Negligence?

To explain contributory negligence, we will use a simple example: Imagine that someone runs a stop sign and hits your car, but your headlights weren’t on at the time. The opposing side could counter your claim by arguing that the accident would not have occurred if your headlights were on, based off the notion that your lack of headlights created poor visibility. This would be an act of negligence on your part which likely “contributed” to the accident.  In other words, you may be found contributorily negligent for the accident.

How Does Contributory Negligence Affect Your Case?

In the Province of Nova Scotia, the courts rely on the principles set out in the Contributory Negligence Act. The Nova Scotia Act, and similar Acts in other jurisdictions across Atlantic Canada, replace the strict common law doctrine of contributory negligence, which limited a claimant’s ability to recover any damages when they were in part responsible for their loss. Under the Contributory Negligence Act, if you are partially at fault for an accident, the courts will award damages to compensate you for your injuries, but the award will be reduced by the degree of your responsibility.

Our Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help

Even if you are partially at fault for an accident, you may still have a claim for damages. At MacGillivray Injury and Insurance Law, we’ve been representing car accident victims since 1994. If you’ve been injured in an accident and are unsure of your right to seek compensation, contact us today to book a free consultation.

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