Contributory Negligence

  • Health & Safety
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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In this guide, we'll look at what contributory negligence is, who is held liable, and how to deal with this type of personal injury claim.

One type of dispute claim that employers may face is contributory negligence.

Dealing with this type of issue can quickly become a complex issue for most. But failure to deal with it can lead to serious costs for your business. Like, paying hefty penalties, losing talented employees, and facing reputational damage.

In this guide, we'll look at what contributory negligence is, who is held liable, and how to deal with this type of personal injury claim.

What is contributory negligence?

Contributory negligence is when a person must take partial responsibility for their own injuries. That’s because they've failed to take reasonable care for their own safety.

It's a common form of defence people use during personal injury claims. Contributory negligence causes them to lose part of their compensation pay they'd normally get for a personal injury claim. Let's look at an example of contributory negligence:

A warehouse employee was hit by a colleague who had driven negligently during work. The injured employee wasn't wearing hi-vis; making it hard for people to see them. This makes them partially at fault - even though they suffered because the colleague was driving negligently.

What is the law on proving contributory negligence?

The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 is the main law that deals with this form of negligence.

Under the act, courts determine who the fault lies with during such claims. If contributory negligence is evident, it means both the claimant and defendant are at fault of personal injury, harm, or damage.

Contributory negligence cases usually have two parties involved. The claimant is the person with the injury. They hope to prove the defendant was negligent and is partially to blame for their own injuries.

In most cases, defendants are fully at fault for a claimant's injuries. But when proving contributory negligence, they must show evidence that:

  • The claimant failed to take reasonable care and suffered due to their own negligence.
  • The claimant's negligence contributed to their own injury.
  • The claimant's injuries were reasonably foreseeable.

Who pays compensation during personal injury claims?

The defendant usually pays compensation during personal injury claims. But when it comes to contributory negligence cases, they don't always pay it in full.

In these cases, the court can reduce the claimant's damages if contributory negligence is proven. For example, if a judge held the claimant at 50% liability for their own injuries, the reward could be reduced by 50%.

The defendant needs sufficient evidence to prove the claimant's negligent actions contributed to their injury. If this is proven, the court will propose a percentage split for liability and compensation - between them and the defendant.

Under tort law, it's not possible to defeat a claim under contributory negligence and deny the victim (claimant) their entire compensation payment. However, the law can decrease the damages recoverable to them if a court feels or sees fit.

How to manage contributory negligence claims in the workplace

Dealing with negligence claims is never easy; but employers should know what steps are needed to get the best outcome during such cases.

By doing so, you'll be able to protect employee relations, lower financial penalties, and minimise reputational damage to your business. Let's look at ways to manage contributory negligence claims in the workplace:

Prepare for the court case

Contributory negligence is commonly raised as a personal injury claim. Like it or not, this means they're usually judged in legal courts.

Employers must take appropriate steps to prepare for the court case. The claimant (and their legal representative) will want to claim the compensation amount in full. But a judge may ask them to propose a split percentage if contributory negligence is proven.

Keep calm and professional when finding a reasonable split percentage. If both parties can't reach a mutual number, the court will make a final decision on this based on who's more liable (to a certain degree or legal extent).

Gather your burden of proof

The next step involves gathering evidence or your 'burden of proof'. Courts may ask you to gather all kinds of evidence, especially for more serious cases. For example, a judge may ask for:

  • Accident reconstruction evidence.
  • Medical expert evidence.
  • Specialist expert evidence.

They could even ask you for evidence on the person or location relevant to the accident. For example, was the accident linked to their work responsibilities? Did they have the right training to do their job safely? Does your workplace have proper safety measures in place?

Update your insurance policy

Employers should update their business insurance policy, so it covers contributory negligence claims.

Remember, employers hold ultimate responsibility when it comes to Health & Safety in the workplace. But that doesn't mean you can't defend yourself in court, or that you're fully to blame for the injury.

Even if compensation claims are reduced by a small percentage, it's better than losing hard-earned revenue by paying it all.

Prevent workplace accidents from happening

Most employers will have to deal with work-related accidents from time to time. Even though they're unavoidable, you should still aim to prevent them from happening.

You can manage a workplace accident and keep a proper lookout by:

  • Carrying out risk assessments to help identify workplace hazards.
  • Implementing all necessary control measures to prevent accidents.
  • Ensuring all staff receive proper training and guidelines on how to conduct work safely.

Get expert advice on contributory negligence with Peninsula

When it comes to determining negligence cases, employers must do their best to follow the correct legal steps. Failure to do this could lead to business disruption, legal penalties, and reputational damage.

Peninsula offers expert advice on contributory negligence. Our HR team offers 24/7 HR employment advice which is available 365 days a year.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4377 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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