What is contributory negligence in a car accident compensation claim?

Published 14 Mar 2018

Car accidents can have a huge impact on an individual’s quality of life, especially when the person suffers permanent injuries that hinder their ability to perform day-to-day activities.

Compensation is often available to people who suffer serious injuries following a vehicular crash in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), but what happens if you were to blame for the accident?

Many people assume they are not entitled to pursue damages if they were responsible. However, this is not always the case, as contributory negligence provides allowances for this type of situation.

How does contributory negligence work?

Contributory negligence is a legal term that refers to clients who are partly or fully to blame for their car accident injuries.

If your case reaches the ACT Supreme Court, a judge will typically be tasked with deciding how much you were at fault for the accident and can reduce the amount of compensation you are awarded accordingly.

For example, the courts have the power to attribute contributory negligence of 100 per cent on the plaintiff, which effectively negates any damages received. Nevertheless, you could still be entitled to a significant payout if your injuries are severe and you are only slightly at fault for the accident.

You should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss any car accidents in which you are involved. They will be able to gauge your level of responsibility for the crash and weigh up whether or not a claim is likely to succeed.

A real-life example of contributory negligence

In 2016, a Canberra public servant was awarded $12 million after being rendered a quadriplegic when his electric bike collided with a reversing car.

Associate Justice David Mossop ruled the defendant negligent due to his carelessness while reversing out of an obscured shared path at speed.

However, the defendant’s lawyers argued the plaintiff was partly to blame for the accident because he failed to take adequate precautions and was travelling too fast.

While Associate Justice Mossop rejected the contributory negligence claim regarding speeding, he ruled the cyclist had suffered a momentary lapse in concentration by failing to guard against potential hazards. The final award to the plaintiff was $9 million after a 25 per cent reduction for contributory negligence.