Being in an accident that led to being injured is traumatic enough, but when both sides claim the other was at fault for various reasons, the stress can multiply exponentially. It’s essential to have an understanding of Nova Scotia’s Contributory Negligence Law, which is likely to become important in cases like these.

What Does Nova Scotia’s Contributory Negligence Law Mean for Personal Injury Cases?

In personal injury cases where more than one person is determined to be negligent, the damages will be adjusted proportionately to the level of negligence assessed by the court. For example, suppose two drivers are in a car crash. One driver was speeding while the other was entering an intersection while the light was red. One driver is injured. But because both drivers were partly at fault, the injured driver will not receive 100% of the damages they would be eligible for if they weren’t also at fault. Suppose the speeding driver was the injured party and was deemed 40% at fault, while the other driver was 60% at fault. The injured driver may be awarded $10,000 in total damages, but because of the 40% fault, will only receive $6,000.

In terms of how contributory negligence is proven, there are three considerations:

  • The plaintiff was responsible for a duty of care, meaning they should have conducted themselves safely.
  • The plaintiff did not act in a way a reasonable person would have regarding their safety.
  • That lack of safe action partly or wholly contributed to the accident that sustained injuries.

What Happens When There Are More Than Two People Liable for an Accident?

The math becomes even more complicated. When more than two people are liable for an accident that caused at least one person an injury, negligence will be apportioned among those determined to be at fault. The injured person or persons will then have their damages reduced accordingly. All personal injury cases can be complex, but this type of case is especially so and would benefit from having an experienced personal injury lawyer working on it.

What Is the “But For” Test?

The courts use something known informally as the “but for” test when assessing contributory negligence. Basically, it says, “But for situation A, would situation B have happened?” Translated into personal injury, it could read, “If driver A had not been speeding, would they have been able to stop before hitting driver B, who was running a red light?”

The courts are then required to be practical about the role of contributory negligence and whether or not the plaintiff has fully proven their case. While helpful, scientific evidence isn’t always required. It can be tricky, as “but for” can be argued for and against in any situation. Having a lawyer handle “but for” is highly recommended.

What Situations Are Considered Contributory Negligence?

There are too many to list here, but here are just a few examples of actions in this category. Essentially, anything that breaks the law (speeding, driving while under the influence) or is something any reasonable person would consider unsafe could be determined to be contributory negligence.

  • Bicyclists and motorcyclists who opt not to wear helmets.
  • Pedestrians crossing streets somewhere other than designated crosswalks or staring at their phones while crossing.
  • Failing to yield when required.
  • Entering spaces clearly marked as private or with signage noting no trespassing.
  • Pedestrians who wear dark clothing with no reflectors at night.
  • Drivers who don’t use seat belts.
  • Adults who keep loaded guns in places where children can easily access them.
  • People who have been in an accident and don’t seek immediate medical care, even if they felt fine at the time of the accident. This is particularly important to know because if someone delays medical care and later claims an injury, the courts may determine that the injury was worsened by the delay in care, which could then be considered contributory negligence.

What Are Some Ways to Prove Contributory Negligence?

If someone is in an accident, they should call the police and file an incident report. This can be important evidence if the injury case goes to court. Another way is to collect the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. If there are businesses or homes nearby that may have security cameras that filmed the incident, collecting that video can be vital as well.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured in an Accident, but I May Be Partly at Fault?

First, even if you don’t have symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible. Many injuries, including some severe and even life-threatening ones, don’t exhibit symptoms immediately. As noted above, the courts may consider delaying a medical exam as a form of contributory negligence if claims are made later.

Then call us at 782-824-3341 to make an appointment for a free case review. Our team of personal injury lawyers is experienced in cases where more than one person may be at fault. We understand what’s at stake in your case and will work hard to ensure you receive the best outcomes possible.

Something you should not do: Talk to the lawyer or insurance representative of anyone else involved in the accident. Their job is to try to lead you into accepting most or all of the liability for the accident. If that doesn’t work, they could try to make a settlement offer that’s far lower than what you might otherwise receive. Instead of taking their calls or replying to letters or emails, refer them to your lawyer.