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Contributory Negligence in Ireland

What is Contributory Negligence in Ireland?

The term contributory negligence in Ireland refers to the contribution a plaintiff may have made to the cause of their accident – or the extent of their injury – due to their own lack of care.

In Ireland contributory negligence is usually described in percentage terms (“he or she was considered 10% liable for the cause of the accident”), and that percentage is deducted from a settlement of personal injury compensation*.

In addition to reducing how much personal injury compensation a plaintiff may be entitled to, there are other consequences of contributory negligence in Ireland. This article explains a few of these consequences and provides some examples of what is considered to be contributory negligence in personal injury compensation claims.

Contributory Negligence in Ireland and the Injuries Board

One of the most significant consequences of contributory negligence in Ireland is how it affects applications for assessment to the Injuries Board. When the Injuries Board receives an application for assessment, it writes to the negligent party (“the respondent”) asking them whether or not they accept liability for your injury.

If the negligent party is not wholly responsible for causing an accident or injury, he or she will not admit full liability, and the Injuries Board – being only an administrator of claims and not involved in liability issues – will dismiss your application for assessment and issue you with an Authorisation to pursue your claim for personal injury compensation through the courts.

Your options then are to engage a solicitor to negotiate the least possible percentage contributory negligence with the respondent (or their insurance company) or, if negotiations are unsuccessful, to represent you in court. Consequently, if you believe that you may have been involved in causing your accident or exacerbating your injuries, you should speak with a personal injury solicitor at the first possible opportunity.

In Ireland Contributory Negligence Extends Settlement Times

When you have contributed to the cause of an accident in which you have sustained an injury – or contributed to the extent of your injury – it takes considerably longer to resolve personal injury claims. This is because insurance companies will attempt to assign you the highest possible percentage of contributory negligence so that they can settle your claim for as little as possible.

Invariably in Ireland contributory negligence extends the length of time that it takes to settle personal injury claims; for not only does the amount of the settlement have to be agreed upon, but also how much responsibility for your own injuries you should accept. It is often said that a driver who fails to wear a seatbelt should accept 25% liability for their injuries if they are hurt in a car crash for which they were not to blame, but there are no hard and fast rules and very few consistent legal precedents for assigning contributory negligence in personal injury compensation claims.

The exception to the rule that contributory negligence extends settlement times is when you may be approached directly by an insurance company with an unsolicited offer of settlement. As mentioned above, insurance companies aim to settle personal injury claims for as little as possible; so – even though an offer of compensation would accelerate the settlement of your personal injury compensation claim – any unsolicited approach should always be referred to your solicitor.

Examples of Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Compensation Claims

The most common example of contributory negligence in personal injury compensation claims has already been touched upon – when a driver is hurt in a road traffic accident for which they were not at fault; but the driver sustains more extensive injuries than he or she otherwise would have because they neglected to wear a seat belt. Other examples of contributory negligence in Ireland include:

  • When you fail to clean the rear lights of your car so that other vehicles cannot tell you are braking
  • When you fail to make use of personal protective equipment provided for you by your employer
  • When you fail to seek professional medical attention after an accident and make your injury worse

There is also a contributory negligence “grey area” about trips, slips and falls in public places. Most public places do not have an “absolute” duty of care to remove or isolate hazards as soon as they appear – for example if you were to slip on milk that had just spilt in a supermarket from the trolley of the shopper immediately in front of you. In such circumstances it could be argued that you failed in your duty of care to watch where you were going.

Contributory negligence can also be a factor in medical negligence claims – if, for example, you failed to communicate all your symptoms of an illness to a medical professional or neglected to take medication that was prescribed for you. The reduction in your compensation settlement could affect the standard of care you are able to afford for an avoidable deterioration of your illness – if you receive a compensation settlement at all!

Summary of Contributory Negligence in Ireland

To rephrase what has been discussed in this article:

  • Contributory negligence relates to the contribution you have made to the cause of an accident or the extent of your injury
  • In Ireland contributory negligence will prevent the Injuries Board from conducting an assessment of your injury
  • Contributory negligence in Ireland often extends the length of time it takes to settle personal injury claims
  • If you have any questions about contributory negligence in personal injury compensation claims, you should always refer them to a solicitor.

This article is meant as a reference only and not a substitute for professional legal advice. If you have sustained an injury as the result of an accident caused by another party’s negligence and feel that you may be eligible for compensation, it is highly advisable to discuss your situation and the points raised in this article with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.