Every person has a legal duty to prevent unreasonable injury to themselves. [i] This becomes an issue in personal injury cases where it is shown that the injured party is themselves partially responsible. In such instances, courts apply the principle of contributory negligence to apportion damages between the parties – the injured party included – whom contributed to the injury. The effect of a finding of contributory negligence for the injured party would be to reduce the total compensation they would otherwise be entitled to, by that percentage.

The courts are reluctant however, to place too heavy a burden with the injured party where others are at fault. This was seen in the case of Snushall, which stated an injured person’s failure to wear a seat belt could at most represent a 25% reduction in the compensation they would otherwise receive. [ii] The case went on to say that a weaker relationship between the failure to wear a seat belt and the resulting injuries would require an even smaller – 5 to 10% – reduction in the total compensation they would otherwise receive.

It is not uncommon for injured persons to either overvalue or undervalue the degree of contributory negligence associated with their claim. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help injured plaintiffs to correctly assess the impact of potential contributory negligence upfront, as part of an overall strategy to help plaintiffs pursue the maximum compensation to which they would be entitled.

[i]Froom v Butcher [1975] W.L.R. 379 CA

[ii]Snushall v Fulsang2005 CanLII 34561 (ON CA), (2005), 78 O.R. (3d) 142 (C.A.)