The Personal Injury Blog

Contributory Negligence: Failure to wear a seat belt

In April we looked at an contributory negligence arising from the failure to wear a helmet whilst riding a pushbike. We now deal with the issue of not wearing seat belts in vehicles and how damage claims are reduced if they are not worn by a victim.

The 2 sides to contributory negligence

There are two aspects to a claimant’s possible contributory negligence: one view is that if it hadn’t been for the Defendant’s negligent driving, the accident would never have happened and the Claimant would not have been injured at all; the opposing argument is that if the Claimant had worn a seat belt, then his or her injuries would not have been as serious as they were or they wouldn’t have occurred at all.

Froom v Butcher 1976

The law of contributory negligence arising from the failure to wear seat belts was developed in the seminal case known as Froom v Butcher in 1976 where the driver of a vehicle was not wearing his seatbelt and suffered head and chest injuries in a collision caused by the Defendant’s negligence.

The Judge, the late Lord Denning stated, “Everyone knows, or ought to know, that when he goes out in a car he should fasten the seatbelt ” and went on to make a deduction of 25% from the Claimant’s damages.

Since that case, the government has made the wearing of seat belts compulsory. It is a criminal offence, carrying a fine of up to £500, if you are found not to be wearing a seatbelt whilst travelling in a motorised vehicle.

How the contributory negligence law works:

The law around cases involving failure to wear a seatbelt broadly works like this:-

  • Where the injury would have been prevented by the wearing of the belt, it is suggested that damages should be reduced by up to 25 per cent. Another way of saying this is that the injured person would be found 25% contributorily negligent.
  • Where the injury would have been significantly less severe if a belt had been worn, it is suggested that the damages should be reduced by 15 per cent (or the claimant held to be 15% contributorily negligent)
  • Where the injury would not have been prevented, the damages will not be reduced (no contributory negligence).

For further information or if you would like to discuss a personal injury claim, please call us on 0114 218 4000email or fill in this form. 

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