Have you been in an accident that wasn’t your fault?

It’s a familiar refrain, familiar enough that what seemed like hundreds of thousands of Twitter users joked about it after Madonna’s whiplash fall. You’ve probably seen it on every TV advert, every unsolicited text message, every accident solicitor website.

It makes sense, and it appeals to the majority of people who generally don’t believe that their accident was their fault. However, despite the perception of the phrase as being a bit of hard-selling, fast-talking salesmanship it actually drastically undersells what an accident injury lawyer can offer you.

Had An Accident That Was Your Fault?

As long as an event was not entirely your fault, there is a good chance that you will be entitled to some form of compensation. Here are some examples to help clarify what this means in practice.


A pedestrian being hit by a car driving too fast for the conditions should be eligible for compensation in most cases. If they were wearing headphones, or not taking care to watch out for traffic, or otherwise acting unpredictably, they will usually still be able to claim. The pedestrian may receive a smaller amount of compensation, as they are considered to be partly at fault, but they may still receive compensation.


A driver who forgot to wear a seatbelt and was seriously hurt in a low-speed accident caused by someone else will usually still be able to claim. In the case of Froom v Butcher the reduction of the compensation amount was decided as 25% if the seatbelt would have significantly reduced the severity of the injury, 15% if the seatbelt would have reduced the severity of the injury in any way, and 0% if the seatbelt would have made no difference to the severity of the injury. These are guidelines but they are generally treated as very firm guidelines.


If someone has failed in a statutory duty of care to you, then they have some responsibility by definition, so your claim amount will not be reduced to zero – unless you breach the same statute, or are entirely to blame! This is according to the decision in Boyle v Kodak 1969. So, if you weren’t looking where you were going and slipped over in a spillage on your employer’s property that wasn’t properly marked out, and the law insists that your employer should clearly mark out all spillages on their property, you would be able to receive some amount of compensation. However, if you deliberately removed the markings and then slipped in the spillage, you might receive no compensation.


If someone died of lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos due to their employer’s lack of care, but smoked twenty cigarettes a day for much of their life, the executor of their estate should still have a valid compensation claim and the blame due to cigarette smoking will be calculated on a case-by-case basis.


Motorcyclists who filter through traffic and end up in an accident are likely to take some amount of blame. Motorcyclists who attempt this useful but dangerous manoeuvre should be on high alert for their own safety, as it is risky both physically and financially…


Being partly to blame is known as contributory negligence in legal circles, and is also known as partial fault.

Injury caused by negligence and accidents is only rarely all one way or all the other. Personal injury lawyers will, in fact, often deal with cases where contributory negligence is a factor.

It is common, where contributory negligence applies, to have contributory negligence reduce compensation by convenient amounts such as quarters, halves or fifths. It is very uncommon to see a decision of 100% contributory negligence against a claimant, and impossible in some cases.

Contributory Negligence And Children

Especially in road vehicle accidents, children are seen as being particularly vulnerable. Children are poor at judging vehicle speeds, having limited experience, and are expected to have less understanding of the rules of the road and a much worse ability to read developing situations at, for instance, complex junctions.

The amount of care demanded from a person depends to an extent on how much can be reasonably expected. On that basis, a child’s contributory negligence will usually be lower than that of an adult.

A ten year old boy or girl who runs out into the road without looking is likely to receive a greater amount of compensation than an adult, or even (potentially) an older child or teenager.

Was Someone Else To Blame?

The question is not were you to blame but was someone else to blame. In that sense, the famous old cliché is accurate but misleading. If you’ve had an accident that was your fault, but was also someone else’s fault, you could be entitled to compensation.

So don’t be put off by that well-known phrase. If you’ve had an accident that was partly your fault, it’s worth getting in touch with us to take advantage of our network of expert personal injury solicitors.