PI_Bronia_Hartley     Bronia Hartley

Road traffic accidents are notoriously fact specific. However it always help to look atthose cases that go to trial to understand what judges think important. Here I look at four recent decisions where the claimant did not succeed or there was substantial contributory negligence.

(1) Stephen Scott (By his Litigation Friend, Angela Mucciaciaro) (2) Jennifer Evans v David Griffiths (2014) QBD 17/1/14

No liability for adult pedestrian stepping out

S, a pedestrian, was struck by G’s car when crossing a single undivided carriageway and suffered catastrophic injuries. It was shortly before 9pm and dark, but there was street lighting. S, 39 at the time, was standing with his mother (the second claimant, E), near to the kerb before stepping into the road. S had probably taken one complete stride from the kerb before the impact with the front nearside wing of G’s car and G was probably travelling 27-30mph. It was claimed that G had failed to sound his horn or slow down sufficiently and had failed to keep a proper lookout. He had, however, taken his foot off the accelerator and steered towards the centre of the road. There was nothing so unusual about S’s conduct, an adult male, to make G think there was a real risk that he would suddenly step out into the road.

Court’s findings

The court held that:
• G had taken reasonable care on his approach to the accident scene and to find that he should have sounded his horn and/or braked would be to impose a counsel of perfection.
• The hazard was an unexpected one and there had been insufficient time for G to brake before the collision.
• Consequently there was no breach of duty in failing to brake.

Train v Secretary of State for Defence (2014) QBD 21/1/14

80% contributory negligence for speeding motorcyclist

The claimant claimed damages for the death of her husband (T). T had been riding his motorcycle down a road on a barracks when he crashed into the side of a minibus being driven by K, who turned across T’s path in order to enter a filling station. The evidence suggested that T was driving very fast, possibly in excess of 40mph, and glanced to the left towards a group of soldiers before seeing the minibus and breaking sharply.

Court’s findings

The court held that:
• The starting point was that T had right of way and that K should only have turned if it was safe to do so.
• Where T was concerned, by driving over the speed limit and glancing to the left at the soldiers, he was unable to stop in time.
• Nevertheless, K should have seen that the motorbike was going in excess of 20mph and he should not have turned unless he was sure of the motorbike’s speed.
• T was the principal but not the only author of his misfortune.
• Damages recoverable were reduced by 80 per cent having regard to T’s part in the accident.

Victor Keith Cridland (By his Litigation Friend David Strickland) v Stagecoach (South) Ltd (2014) QBD 22/1/14

No liability for bus company where accident due to anti-social behaviour of an unidentified youth

Where the driver of a bus (W) was forced to perform an emergency stop due to the anti-social behaviour of an unidentified youth (Y), the bus company was not liable for damages for personal injury suffered by a passenger (C) on the bus. W had seen Y ahead of him on a push scooter. When W was a car length away from Y, he found himself unable to overtake because of an oncoming vehicle. W sounded his horn to make Y aware of his presence and so that Y would move aside. Y’s reaction was to swing the scooter up into the air as if he was going to throw it against the windscreen of the bus. W’s reaction was to break sharply which caused C to be thrown forward suffering serious injury.

Court’s findings

The court held that:
• No reasonable driver could have predicted that Y would react in the way that he did.
• W’s reaction was reasonable in the circumstances.
• W was not speeding and, at the critical point, had slowed down and braked.

Gray v Gibson (2014) CA (Civ Div) 4/3/14

No liability for driver who collided with lorry travelling in the opposite direction and encroaching onto her lane

G was not liable in any way for a collision with a lorry driven by X travelling in the opposite direction and encroaching onto her lane.

Court’s findings

The court held that:
• There was a particular duty of care on X not to drive at a speed at which he could not stop within a short distance given that he was crossing over the middle of the road due to the width of his lorry.
• G, who was driving well within the speed limit, could not be criticised for failing to foresee the possibility that she might meet a large vehicle travelling in the opposite direction and encroaching onto her side of the road.



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