How Does Contributory Negligence Relate To Shared Fault?

Sometimes, the evidence that emerges from an accident indicates that both involved parties contributed to creation of the unfortunate event. In other words, the blame must be shared between those on both sides of the accident-triggered dispute.

The way that the legal system has chosen to deal with shared fault has changed over time. One of the earlier approaches to that issue relied on usage of the principle that was known as contributory negligence.

What were the primary features of contributory negligence?

Personal Injury Lawyer in Ottawa knows that when a legal system has chosen to apply that particular principle to personal injury cases, it has agreed to deny any amount of compensation to the plaintiff, if he or she has contributed to creation of the case-triggering accident. The % of the contribution is of no concern.

If used as a legal defense by the defendant’s lawyer, contributory negligence could have a devastating effect on the outcome for a personal injury case. It could allow someone that has suffered a severe injury to be deprived of any compensation, due to discovery of a simple lapse or an innocent action. The injured victim would have permitted introduction of either of those unwanted events.

A much fairer principle

Over time, contributory negligence has been largely replaced by comparative negligence. That is the principle being used now by the legal system in a majority of the states. When a legal system uses that principle, it insists that shared fault results in shared punishment for negligence.

In other words, if a plaintiff contributed to 10% of the factors that caused a given accident, and the defendant contributed to 90% of the factors, then the defendant should get only 90% of the awarded compensation. Suppose a plaintiff had contributed to 70% of the factors, what should happen then?

That sort of question gave rise to creation of modified comparative negligence. According to that principle, a victim does not get any compensation if he or she contributed to more than 50% of the factors that led to a certain accident’s occurrence.

Limits on using either of the above principles as a legal defense

If a defendant in a personal injury case could prove that the plaintiff did, indeed, contribute in some way to creation of the accident-at-issue, then that should force the court to consider reducing the amount of money owed to the same plaintiff. In other words, shared fault could be used as a legal defense.

The legal system does allow introduction of that defense in some cases. However, if the evidence indicates that the defendant had harmed the plaintiff intentionally, the defense team cannot introduce any proof of shared fault. Wrong intentions abolish the legal system’s readiness to recognize evidence of a plaintiff’s shared fault.