Contributory Negligence in Accident

Accidents are emotionally and legally challenging. One of the key legal concepts you would hear about is “contributory negligence.” What is contributory negligence in accident? How does it affect your case?

Our dedicated Calgary attorneys at Sidhu Lawyers are here to shed light on this term, ensuring you’re aware of the situation. Contributory negligence can influence how blame is shared and how much compensation you will receive. 

Understanding is half the battle with legal matters, and having a trusted lawyer is the other. We are committed to ensuring you have both.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory Negligence refers to a legal concept used in some jurisdictions to describe a situation where an injured party has, through their negligence, contributed to the harm they suffered. Simply, it means that if you were partly at fault for causing your injury, this can affect your compensation.

  1. Shared Responsibility: Both the claimant and defendant can share fault. If both parties are found negligent, the compensation could be adjusted based on each party’s degree of fault.
  2. Compensation Reduction: If a victim is found to be contributorily negligent, their compensation can be reduced by a percentage that reflects their share of the blame.
  3. Burden of Proof: The defendant is responsible for proving that the claimant was negligent in some way that contributed to their injury.
  4. All or Nothing: In some jurisdictions, if the injured party is even slightly at fault, they could be barred from receiving any compensation. This differs from comparative negligence systems, where the compensation is adjusted based on the degree of fault.
  5. Statutory Modifications: Over time, many jurisdictions have modified the harshness of the “all or nothing” rule with statutes allowing injured parties to recover damages even if they were partially responsible.
  6. Type of Activity: The application of contributory negligence can vary depending on the activity, such as driving, pedestrian actions, or professional malpractice.

How Contributory Negligence Applies to Accidents

Contributory negligence can manifest in various accident scenarios. Understanding how it applies can significantly affect the outcome of a legal claim.

  1. Automobile Accidents: If a driver fails to wear a seatbelt and gets injured in an accident, even if another driver was the primary cause, the unbuckled driver can be found contributory negligent for their injuries.

  2. Slip and Fall: If someone slips on a wet floor without a warning sign but is texting and not paying attention, they could be deemed partly responsible for their injuries.

  3. Workplace Incidents: An employee not wearing mandated safety equipment could be considered contributory negligent if injured, even if there were other safety lapses at the workplace.



Direct Evidence of Negligence

Eyewitness accounts, videos, or other direct evidence showing careless behaviour.

Breach of Statutory Duty

Violation of laws or regulations, like traffic rules in car accidents.

Failure to Mitigate

Not taking steps to minimize the potential harm after an incident occurs.

Comparative Analysis

Weighing the actions of all parties involved to determine relative negligence.

Expert Testimonies

Professionals opining on standards of care and whether they were breached.

Previous Incidents or Warnings

Prior accidents or warnings can indicate a known risk that was disregarded.

How Contributory Negligence Applies to Accidents

Contributory negligence can be better understood through real-life examples. The following are some scenarios to illustrate the concept:


A driver runs a red light at an intersection and hits another car. The second driver, who had the right of way, was found to be driving significantly over the speed limit.

Court’s Application:

Though the driver who ran the red light was primarily at fault, the speeding driver was also found contributory negligent because had they been driving at the legal speed, the impact could have been less severe or avoided altogether. The speeding driver’s compensation was reduced due to their contributory negligence.

contributory negligence in accident
slip and fall accidents


A shopper slips on a spilled liquid in a mall. There was no warning sign, but the shopper was texting and not paying attention to their surroundings.

Court’s Application:

The mall was deemed negligent for not cleaning up the spill or putting up a warning sign. However, the shopper was also found partly responsible for not paying attention. Compensation for the shopper was adjusted to account for their contributory negligence.


A cyclist is hit by a car at night. The cyclist wasn’t wearing any reflective clothing or using lights, making them hard to spot.

Court’s Application:

While the car driver could have been inattentive, the cyclist’s lack of visibility gear contributed to the accident. The court determined that both parties shared blame, and the cyclist’s compensation was reduced based on their percentage of fault.

Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence


Comparative Negligence

Contributory Negligence


1. Pure: Damages awarded based on fault percentage.

2. Modified: Recovery only if the plaintiff’s fault is below a set threshold (e.g., 50%).

Typically no subcategories.

Legal Foundation

Prioritizes fairness, allowing partial recovery even if the plaintiff is partly at fault.

Rooted in old principles; any plaintiff negligence can deny compensation.

Settlement Impacts

Encourages settlements due to recognized shared blame.

Fewer settlements if defendants believe they can prove the plaintiff’s negligence.

Evidentiary Focus

Weighing evidence to establish fault percentages.

Identifying any negligence on the plaintiff’s part.

Public Perception

Viewed as more equitable, distributing financial burden based on responsibility.

Seen as harsh; could deny recovery for minor faults.

Legal Strategies to Navigate Contributory Negligence Compensation Issues



Evidence Collection

Gathering comprehensive evidence (photos, eyewitness accounts) can counteract contributory negligence claims.

Expert Testimonies

Professionals can validate that the plaintiff’s actions didn’t significantly contribute to the accident.

Legal Precedents

Using past court decisions to argue for full compensation despite minor negligence.


Negotiating a fair settlement to avoid trial risks associated with contributory negligence.

Clarifying Negligence

Emphasizing that the plaintiff’s negligence was minor compared to the defendant’s.

Jurisdictional Nuances

Understanding specific regional nuances or exceptions related to contributory negligence can offer advantages.

contributory negligence in accident

Contact Us

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Sidhu Personal Injury Lawyers Calgary takes pride in our team of seasoned legal professionals. With years of expertise in handling cases related to contributory negligence in accident, we are dedicated to providing our clients with comprehensive legal guidance tailored to their unique circumstances. 

Our commitment to excellence is demonstrated by our track record and the numerous clients we’ve successfully represented.

Our team of personal injury lawyers is here to assist if you’ve been affected by a motor vehicle accident or need advice on the complexities surrounding contributory negligence. If an accident happened due to a lack of reasonable care or other reasons, and you need help navigating the challenging legal landscape, let our professionals guide you every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Proving contributory negligence involves presenting evidence that the plaintiff’s actions or omissions contributed to the injury or damage they sustained. This can include eyewitness testimonies, photographs, professional opinions, and other relevant evidence demonstrating the plaintiff’s partial responsibility.

In Calgary, if you are found to have contributed to the accident in some way, this is termed as “contributory negligence”. It means that both parties involved in the motor vehicle accident share some responsibility for the incident. 

If you’re deemed to be contributively negligent, the compensation you could receive from the other person’s insurance company could be reduced proportionally based on the extent to which you were at fault. Consult with a Calgary lawyer to understand how this could impact your specific case.

Yes, contributory negligence can be applied in workplace accidents. If an employee’s carelessness or failure to follow safety protocols contributed to their injury, it could reduce or nullify any compensation or benefits they could otherwise receive. However, specific rules and applications can vary based on local labour laws and workplace compensation systems.

In jurisdictions that follow strict contributory negligence principles, yes, even a minor degree of negligence on the part of the plaintiff can completely bar them from recovering damages. However, this approach varies by jurisdiction, and some regions can adopt a more balanced, comparative negligence system. Always consult local laws and legal counsel for specifics.