The application of contributory negligence when injured person was not wearing seatbelt

In a prior blog, we discussed the legal concept of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is used as a way to reduce compensation for injuries when it is determined that the plaintiff’s actions partially caused his or her injuries. The concept of contributory negligence can be used in cases where a plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident while he was not wearing his seatbelt.

The Canadian legal system is a product of English common law. One of the most famous judges from the English house of Lords was Lord Alfred Denning (1899–1999). He penned the decision in Froom v Butcher, [1975] 3 All E.R. 520, an English Court of Appeal case which frames the basis of the current law in Ontario, with regards to contributory negligence when a plaintiff fails to wear his or her seatbelt. Denning’s decision was written in a time where seatbelts were not mandatory, but it nevertheless holds that if wearing a seatbelt would have prevented part of the injuries, then the defendant should not be responsible for the full extent of the damages.

Maximum finding of contributory negligence

Lord Denning suggested finding contributory negligence of 25% in cases where injuries would have been entirely prevented had the plaintiff been wearing his seatbelt, and 15% where the injuries would have been reduced by wearing a seatbelt. The Ontario Court of Appeal accepted this line of reasoning in Snushall v Fulsang, 2005 CanLII 34561 (ONCA), concluding that the maximum finding of contributory negligence that can be found where all injuries would have been prevented had the plaintiff been wearing a seatbelt is 25%. Therefore, a plaintiff will often receive 75% of damages, even if wearing a seatbelt would have prevented all of his or her injuries.

Not wearing a seatbelt is dangerous. However, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and you were not wearing a seatbelt, your compensation will likely be reduced.

Our Ottawa personal injury and accident lawyers are specifically trained to ensure you get fair compensation for your injuries.

If you or someone you care about was injured in an accident, please contact one of our lawyers for a free consultation. We work on a no-fee-until-you-win basis. Call us at 613-315-4878.