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What is Contributory Negligence in a Calgary Car Accident?

All Canadian provinces have a contributive negligence clause, and Alberta is no exception.

Contributory negligence allows multiple parties in an accident or injury case to share liability.

Many clients are surprised to learn that they themselves may be apportioned a percentage of negligence, even if they are the sole injured victim.


Contributing to Negligence: Actions

Here are a few actions that can cause courts to assign you a percentage of the blame for an accident or injury.

  • Ignoring traffic laws, signs, or instructions
  • Ignoring hazard signs, warnings, or safety procedures
  • Failing to wear a seatbelt in a car accident case
  • Failing to wear a helmet in a motorcycle accident case
  • Driving while distracted or tired


You can think of contributory negligence as a sort of legal “yes, but.” “Yes, John was negligent when he failed to fix the stairs, but you were negligent when you decided to take the dark, creepy staircase instead of the fully functioning elevator.”

Or: “Yes, Mary was negligent when she failed to post Beware of Dog signs, but you walked into her yard anyway, even though you could clearly hear that there was a dog barking behind the fence.”

John still should have fixed the staircases. Mary still should have kept her dog under control. But in these examples, the accident victim could have taken some steps to protect themselves, as well.


Suing When Partially At-Fault

You may sue even if you are 99% at fault, but there are diminishing returns for doing so. Each percentage assigned to you lowers your award by the same amount.

If you’re found 10% at fault and have a $300,000 award, you will only take home $270,000.


Your Attorney’s Role in Mitigating Contributory Negligence

Your personal injury attorney will work to lower the assessed negligence percentage during the settlement process. If your case goes to trial, they will be working to convince the courts that the other party or parties were more at-fault for the injury than you are. This is because even a few percentage points of fault can amount to thousands of dollars lost.

Another thing you must realize about contributory negligence is that every negligent party may be sued for the total amount of the damages. This law can work against you when both parties suffer harm, but can work in your favor when you are the only injured party.

When you are the only injured party, this law increases your chances of getting paid, regardless of each contributor’s ability to pay. Thus, it is up to your attorney to find every potentially liable party and to hold them accountable on your behalf.


Get Help TodayContributory negligence is a complex subject, the details of which are often the subject of hot debate by legal scholars. If you want to know how contributory negligence will impact your specific case, it is important to speak to a qualified Alberta injury lawyer.

Schedule a case review with Merchant Law to get help today. Our experienced attorneys can develop a plan for managing any issues of contributory negligence that might arise in your specific case.

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.

Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Merchant Law for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.