© 2016 The Authors. The Modern Law Review © 2016 The Modern Law Review Limited.In this article we report the results of an empirical study of 368 first instance decisions on the contributory negligence doctrine handed down in England and Wales between 2000 and 2014. The two central questions at which we looked were: how often a defendant's plea of contributory negligence was successful; and by how much a claimant's damages were reduced when a finding of contributory negligence was made. We also considered the extent to which the answers to these questions depended on the following variables: the claimant's age; the claimant's gender; the type of damage suffered by the claimant; the contextual setting of the claim; and the year of the decision. Our study uncovered several important truths about the contributory negligence doctrine hidden in this mass of case law, some of which cast significant doubt on the accuracy of widely held views about the doctrine's operation.