In Ireland, contributory negligence refers to the part an injured party may have played in causing the accident for which they are claiming compensation. When referring to contributory negligence for personal injuries, it usually means that the plaintiff partially caused or exacerbated their injury through their own lack of care.
If and when contributory negligence has been assigned to a claimant in the Irish courts, a percentage is used to signify the degree to which they contributed to the incident. For example, if in a car accident during which a pedestrian was hit by a passing vehicle, a judge may assign 40% contributory negligence to the pedestrian if it was determined that they had been acting carelessly and, as such, helped cause the accident.
Once contributory negligence has been assigned for personal injury cases in Ireland, that percentage is then deducted from the settlement of compensation awarded to the claimant.
Injuries Board Ireland
In cases where it is clear that the injured party had a role to play in their accident, the process of application to the Injuries Board is altered.
Upon receiving an application for assessment in personal injury claims, the Injuries Board Ireland writes to the “respondent” (the accursedly negligent party) to investigate whether or not they concede liability. However, if the respondent does not believe themselves solely liable for the accident, they will refuse to admit full liability.
This in turn means that the Injuries Board must dismiss the application for assessment, as it is not in their power to determine liability. The claimant is then issued with authorisation to pursue their personal injury claims through the courts.
The parties may then choose to engage in negotiations and assign their own contributory negligence, though many cases will proceed to a court hearing. There, a judge will determine liability and contributory negligence.
Delays due to Liability Disputes
If the claimant has admitted to contributory negligence, any negotiations between the plaintiff and the respondent will usually be protracted and claims will take significantly longer to resolve than other, less complex cases. Ordinarily, this is a direct result of the conflict between the parties as to how much negligence will be assigned – the insurers or legal representatives of the accused will want to assign the claimant as high a percentage of the liability as possible. In these instances, it is particularly important that those seeking compensation engage with a solicitor who will negotiate for their best interests.
There are no set criteria as to how much liability a claimant should accept in different types of situations. One more established rule is that a driver who is injured in an accident that was not their fault, but was not wearing a seatbelt, should accept 25% of the liability for their injuries. However, this is a rare example and the vast majority of cases will lack a clear precedent.
Common Instances of Split Liability in Ireland
The aforementioned example – where a driver was assigned contributory negligence for failing to observe safety laws and wear a seatbelt – is perhaps the most common instance in Ireland where the claimant is assigned a portion of the liability. However, there are many other such instances that would lead to a reduction in compensation for the injured party.
These include, though are certainly not limited to, the following: accidents as a result of a failed brake light; work accidents where the employee have not engaged in adequate preventative measures (such as wearing protective equipment supplied by their employer) and exacerbating an injury as the result of an accident by failing to seek prompt medical help.
Naturally, not all cases can be dealt with in such a clean manner. Many public spaces do not have an “absolute duty of care”, meaning that they are not entirely responsible for the removal of potentially dangerous obstacles as soon as they appeared. For example, if someone fell and hurt themselves on a piece of glass in a public park, the local authorities may not be completely liable as the glass may have only been a very recent hazard.
Contributory negligence only applies to personal injury claims in which it can be proven that the injured party in some way caused or worsened their accident or subsequent injuries. Not only does this affect the normal procedures for seeking compensation by preventing the Injuries Board Ireland from conducting an assessment of the accident, it can also reduce the compensation settlement to which the injured party is entitled. As negotiations can be particularly complicated in these instances, it is vitally important that those seeking compensation for personal injuries in Ireland consult a solicitor as soon as possible after their accident.