Road Traffic Accidents - Where Does Responsibility Lie?

Discerning where blame for road traffic accidents lies is not always easy but, with the aid of specialist legal representation, the courts are able to uncover the truth. In one case on point, solicitors representing a catastrophically injured pedestrian succeeded in proving that the motorist who ran her down was 80 per cent responsible for the accident.

The woman, a waitress in her 30s, was on her way home when she was hit by a passing car as she attempted to cross a busy main road. She was treated by paramedics at the scene before being airlifted to hospital. Solicitors acting on her behalf sued the driver's insurers, who denied that he was at fault.

Following a hearing, the High Court found, amongst other things, that she had been wearing dark clothing at night and had placed herself needlessly at risk by walking across a four-lane road, although there was a pedestrian crossing nearby. She had misjudged the speed of the car that hit her and, rather than halting at the road's centre white line, she had walked into the driver's path.

In finding that the motorist bore the lion's share of the blame for the accident, however, the Court noted that the road was straight and well lit and that visibility was good. There was very little traffic, but the driver was travelling at the maximum permitted speed during the hours of darkness and in wet conditions. There was nothing to prevent him taking avoiding action, but he had failed to keep a proper lookout.

The Court's ruling guarantees the woman very substantial compensation for her injuries. The amount of her award is likely to be a seven-figure sum, even after a 20 per cent reduction to take account of her own contributory negligence.