VOLENTI NON FIT INJURIA
Every person has a duty under tort law to behave with reasonable care in order to avoid any injury that may result from their failure to take such care. For example, if a person is driving his automobile, he has a responsibility to drive the car safely and within speed restrictions so that no accidents occur that may hurt other people.
This is the basic norm in torts, although there are some exceptions that are allowed in these situations, which are known as tort defences. A defendant can avoid responsibility by using various defences, and one such defence is volenti non-fit injuria.
In case a person gives his consent to doing of an act which leads to him getting injured, then even if an injury is caused by the other person, he cannot claim any damages from that person because the act was one for which he voluntarily consented. The consent of the plaintiff acts as a defence and this defence is called volenti non fit injuria which means to a willing person no injury happens.
Illustration: If A has a bike whose brakes do not work and B knowing about the conditions of the bike still chooses to sit on it with A driving it and due to the failure of such brakes they both sustain injuries in an accident, B cannot claim relief from A because he had voluntarily consented to sit on the bike.
But in the above illustration, if B was not aware of the conditions of brakes and then he sustained injuries sitting in it, he would not be stopped from claiming damages from A because here B did not give his consent to accept the risk of getting injured due to failure of the brakes.
Elements of Volenti non-fit injuria
For the application of the defence of volenti non fit injuria there are some essential elements or conditions which should be present in a case and only when they are fulfilled, this defence can be taken to prevent liability.
There are 2 essential elements in this defence:
- The plaintiff has the knowledge of the risk
- The plaintiff with the knowledge of risk has voluntarily agreed to suffer the harm.
Thus, whenever the plaintiff is aware of the possibility of harm which is likely to be caused by an act and when he still accepts to do that act and therefore agrees to suffer the injury, a defendant is relieved of his liability.
But only having knowledge about the risk is not enough for the application of this defence, It is known as Scienti non fit injuria, which means that mere knowledge does mean consent to the risk. Thus having knowledge is only a partial fulfilment of the conditions for the application of volenti non fit injuria.
Illustration: A goes for bungee jumping and he knows that he might get injured by it but he still decides to do it and as a result, he suffers injury despite all the necessary care being taken by the organisers. Here A cannot claim damages from the organisers because he had full knowledge of the risks and he had voluntarily agreed to suffer that injury by choosing to do bungee jumping.
Volenti non fit injuria is a tort law defence in which the person who has committed a wrong is excused from culpability because the victim of such a wrong provides his agreement to the commission of such an act, and such assent must be free for this defence to be effective in a case.
This defence is also subject to restrictions, such as rescue situations and the defendant’s carelessness, in which the defendant is held responsible even if the plaintiff gives consent.