Split Liability: What Is It?

Car Accident Claims

It’s a sad fact of life that accidents happen, and when they do they can certainly bring with them a whole host of problems. In the case of a road traffic incident, for example, there are several issues which you might find yourself having to consider. Firstly, of course, if there’s any damage which might have been sustained to your vehicle – and then there’s personal injury, any other losses (such as prescription charges) and, in some cases, loss of earnings.

Whilst the severity of the incident will naturally determine the extent of these particular issues one of the main considerations is ultimately, who’s responsible for putting things right and paying the cost? In this article, we take a look at the concept of split liability with Smith Jones Solicitors and what it might mean in the unfortunate event that you find yourself having to make a claim.

What is meant by ‘split liability’?

The term ‘split liability’ is exactly what it says. It basically means that more than one party was to blame for an incident occurring and that, therefore, the responsibility to pay for it shouldn’t simply rest with one person alone.

Take, for example, a very common occurrence whilst driving. Two people reverse their cars out of a parking space at exactly the same time and then make an impact, causing damage to each vehicle. In this case, both drivers are to blame since neither noticed the other and manoeuvred their vehicle into a detrimental position.

Another common example of split liability is where a vehicle pulls out of a junction and is hit by an oncoming vehicle; the driver of whom admits to driving above the speed limit. In this case, whilst the vehicle shouldn’t have pulled out of the junction when the other was approaching, the driver might not reasonably have expected the other driver to be travelling at such a speed.

Is a split liability claim more complex than a ‘normal’ claim?

The answer to this very much depends on the individual circumstances of the claim. In some cases, for example, both drivers might readily admit from the outset that they were both at fault and then work together (either with, or without their insurers) to put things right.

In other cases, however, one party might well consider that they were less to ‘blame’ than the other (as per the latter example we’ve just mentioned above). Should this happen, then the vast majority of cases will either be referred to the insurance companies and/or solicitors to resolve, and evidence will be put together in order to substantiate the element of blame on each side. Again, this will very much depend on what evidence might be available, and cases can be concluded much easier, for example, if any of the drivers concerned have black boxes or dash-cams fitted – or if there were any independent witnesses nearby.

In the event that a split liability claim can’t be resolved through initial negotiation then it’s likely the matter will be referred to Court. However, this is generally best avoided since legal proceedings can not only be costly but can also take much longer to settle – particularly if additional evidence is required, such as medical or police reports.

If the claim becomes more formal in nature, then it’s likely you’ll hear the term “contributory negligence” mentioned. This simply means that there wasn’t one specific individual responsible for the incident and that other facts potentially intervened.

How could a split liability claim affect my personal injury claim?

If you’re making a claim for personal injury, then contributory negligence may be raised at some point during the proceedings.

If either your insurer (or the Court) consider that you were at least partially to blame for the incident, then you won’t be entitled to 100% of the compensation, as you would be if the accident had not been your fault. The key thing to remember about compensation is that it’s there simply to put you back in the position you would have been in had the incident not occurred in the first place.

Consequently, if it’s found that you were at least partly to blame, then the other party’s insurers will seek to reduce the amount that you’re able to receive. What’s more, if they can prove that your actions caused the accident and/or made the damages worse, a split liability claim is most likely to be the best way forward for all concerned.

Will I have to pay the excess on my policy?

If you find yourself pursuing a split liability claim, then the most likely answer to this is “yes”. In fact, when it comes to claiming on your insurance after a road traffic incident you’ll almost always have to pay the excess due under your policy. The only real exception to this is when the other driver admits full liability. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with your insurer, so you’d be well advised to raise the question as soon as you begin the claims process.

What sort of compensation can I expect?

The amount of compensation you receive will be purely dependent on the loss suffered. In cases concerning split liability then, as we’ve already seen, either the insurers, car accident solicitors or Court will make the ultimate decision on what should be paid out to each party. Claims are usually settled on a percentage basis which can loosely be outlined as follows:

  • 100% means that the other party is entirely to blame for the incident and, if this is determined, then you’ll receive all of your compensation.
  • 75/25 means that you’re considered to be 25% responsible for the accident – hence you’ll receive 75% of the compensation amount.
  • 50/50 means that you were equally responsible for the accident and you’ll receive 50% of the compensation.
  • 25/75 means that you were 75% responsible for the accident and will, therefore, receive just 25% of the compensation amount.

Does this mean that any legal costs will be split too?

No. All your legal costs are usually based on the overall value of your claim and not on any split liability agreement. However, if your claim concerns personal injury, then you might want to consider entering into a ‘no win, no fee*’ arrangement with your solicitor. This means that you won’t pay any legal costs unless your claim is successful. There are numerous high street solicitors offering this particular service, so it’s always a good idea to shop around for the right deal and ensure that you’re fully covered in the event that your claim doesn’t go according to plan.

Can I expect a Fair Outcome?

Suffice it to say, split liability claims aren’t always as straightforward as other claims, but that’s not to say that they aren’t capable of giving all parties a fair and reasoned outcome.

If you’ve suffered a personal injury as a result of an accident, then be sure to seek independent legal advice and ask around for the best deals on conditional fee arrangements or ‘no win, no fee*’ deals. Whilst you’ll be expected to pay a certain percentage back to your solicitor if your claim is successful, they can certainly provide added peace of mind in terms of what you’ll initially need to pay out should your claim proceed to Court.

Of course, as with any other claim type, negotiation should never be underestimated, and where possible, legal proceedings avoided altogether. Indeed, if each party can agree from the outset that they were at least partially to blame, then this may make things easier as the claim progresses.