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Contributory negligence: What happens if I am partially at fault in an accident?

What is contributory negligence?

When an injured party is partially at fault in an accident, it is called contributory negligence. This means that the actions or inactions of the individual played a contributing role in the accident.

When someone is found to be partially at fault for an accident, the damages they could be awarded for their injuries will be reduced by the percentage which they are found at fault for the accident. For example, where an injured party’s damages are assessed at $100,000 and they are found 25% liable for the accident, their damage award will be reduced to $75,000.

Contributory negligence defined in the jurisprudence (Theory of law)

The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the test for contributory negligence in Bow Valley Husky (Bermuda) Ltd. v. Saint John Shipbuilding Ltd.,1997 CanLII 307 (SCC), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 1210. In that case, the court adopted the test summarized by Lord Denning in Jones v. Livox Quarries Ltd., [1952] 2 Q.B. 608 (C.A.) at p. 615:

Although contributory negligence does not depend on a duty of care, it does depend on foreseeability. Just as actionable negligence requires the foreseeability of harm to others, so contributory negligence requires the foreseeability of harm to oneself. A person is guilty of contributory negligence if he ought reasonably to have foreseen that, if he did not act as a reasonable, prudent man, he might be hurt himself; and in his reckonings he must take into account the possibility of others being careless.

In essence, contributory negligence is a recognition in the law of one’s own fault for an accident where fault is split between the injured party and another party.

How can a lawyer help when contributory negligence is a factor?

Even when one or more of these factors are present, there may be significant compensation available to the injured party. Remember, a finding of contributory negligence will reduce, not eliminate, the amount of damages an injured party is entitled to. It is possible, under unique circumstances, that an injured party is found 100% at fault for their injuries based on their actions where there is nothing the other party could have done to avoid the accident. At MacGillivray Law, our personal injury lawyers will gather all the relevant facts and compile an argument that maximizes an injured party’s entitlement to damages. Book a free consultation to learn more.


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