Contributory Negligence

Updated: 09 June 2023

What Does Contributory Negligence Mean?

Contributory negligence is a defense used in common law to denote that the plaintiff was, in part, responsible for the harm or loss suffered. It implies that both parties’ negligence contributed to the occurrence of the situation. In terms of liability insurance, various policies would cover the costs of mounting a contributory negligence defense suit.

Insuranceopedia Explains Contributory Negligence

For example, during rush hour, a pedestrian in a hurry crosses a road without paying attention, despite the warning lights indicate it isn’t safe to cross. Unfortunately, the pedestrian is hit, injured, and later files a negligence claim against the motorist to recover damages. Will the courts rule in favor of the pedestrian?

The defendant, (the motorist in this case), could introduce a contributory negligence counterclaim starting that the plaintiff sustained injuries due to their own negligent actions. The defendant would have to prove without reasonable doubt that injuries occurred partially due to the plaintiff’s reckless actions. Once a contributory negligence defense is accepted, the plaintiff cannot recover any damages. However, the plaintiff also has other legal avenues to hold the defendant liable.

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