What Is Contributory Negligence?
Imagine this scenario: it is a beautiful day, there is good visibility and the roads are not covered in snow, ice or water. You are driving, kids are screaming in the back, you turn on the radio, and at the same moment, a text comes in on your phone, resting on the passenger seat. You look down a half-second to catch the message sent, when a car you never saw coming hits you. The police investigate and say the other driver is at fault. Given your injuries, you decide to hire a personal injury lawyer and you sue the other driver.
Can you share legal responsibility for the accident even when the police say you were not at fault?
Yes and no. When considering the concept of contributory negligence,the court examines the blameworthiness of each party leading to the accident. Therefore, if a court determines that a plaintiff was also negligent even though the root cause of the accident is the defendant’s behavior, the court may still accept the plaintiff’s action (i.e., the lawsuit) but lay part of the responsibility to the plaintiff. This then factors into the amount of damages (compensation) that the plaintiff will get; the plaintiff will get the total of the damages, minus the amount apportioned to his or her responsibility. The Defendant is in the end liable, and will pay, but only to the percentage of fault that he or she had.
In the above scenario, what could constitute contributory negligence?
What did the accident victim in this scenario do that could be considered contributorily negligent? Hindsight is 20/20, but there are still basic rules of safety that all drivers are expected to follow. When you are driving, you need to be aware of your surroundings and have a car that is in decent good repair. Therefore, many of the distracting actions in this scenario that lowered the plaintiff’s awareness of his or her surroundings could be matter for contributory negligence: loud music, kids screaming, and glancing at a cellphone for just one second. In fact, in Ontario, using a phone while driving contravenes section 78.1 of the Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H.8.
Contributory negligence is a concept that may impact the total amount of damages you reach in a settlement for personal injuries.
Our Ottawa personal injury and accident lawyers are specifically trained to handle such issues. If you or someone you care about was injured in an accident, please contact one of our lawyers for a free consultation. We work on a no-fee-until-you-win basis. Call us at 613-315-4878. Marc Quinn, Top Ottawa Injury Lawyer.