Judge rules 30mph not appropriate speed in brain damage trial

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Judge rules 30mph not appropriate speed in brain damage trial

28th May 2012

A judge has ruled that the uninsured driver who knocked down a four-year-old boy in a residential street, causing serious brain damage to the victim, was driving too fast.

A liability trial held at the High Court heard how the driver’s car hit the child with such force that he was thrown several feet through the air, resulting in a complex pelvic fracture and contusions of the lungs as well as severe brain injuries. The judge also ordered the defendants to make an interim payment of £10,000 to the victim at the hearing.

Richard Crabtree, a brain injuries specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the defendant had argued that she had been driving at an appropriate speed and that his client had simply run out in front of her. “In cross examination, the defendant admitted that in the circumstances – namely a residential street with restricted vision due to parked cars - her speed should have been no greater than 20 to 25mph.,” said Richard, a partner with the firm. “The critical point we wanted to make at the trial was that if she had been travelling at 25 mph or less, then just a little braking would have been required by the driver to have resulted in a significant reduction in her speed, and my client would not have sustained such a severe injury.”

Richard described how the residential road the driver had been travelling along had narrowed due to cars being parked along either side.

“Another car stopped to allow the woman to drive her Renault Clio through the narrow gap, but as she made her way through, my client’s brother emerged from a gap between two parked vehicles,” said Richard. “When he saw the approaching car he retreated to the pavement. The driver should therefore have been aware that children were in the area. Unfortunately once the first boy had returned to the path she accelerated again, and when the boy’s younger brother continued into the road, he was struck by the woman’s car.”

Richard said that expert evidence was called upon to ascertain the exact circumstances of the incident, which occurred early one evening in April 2006. “The experts agreed that, if, for example, the driver had been travelling at her stated speed of 30 mph and braked heavily on seeing the young boy – even if she had braked for only one second - the speed of the car at the point of impact would have been less than 12 mph,” he said. “That would have made an enormous difference to the severity of the injuries my client sustained that day.”

Richard explained that as the driver had no valid insurance, his client’s claim had to be made against the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB) - the specialist fund set up to provide compensation to those injured by uninsured motorists. But the MIB refused to admit the woman was at fault and instructed its solicitors to fight the case.

“The driver accepted that she had been driving too quickly to assess the situation, and that a safer speed would have been 20 to 25 miles per hour,” said Richard. “When she tried to claim that the two boys had emerged at the same time, both accident reconstruction experts acting on behalf of my client and the MIB agreed that her account simply could not be correct.”

Richard said expert evidence provided by a neurosurgeon who had examined his client also underlined that the seriousness of the boy’s injuries could have been massively reduced had the driver not been travelling too fast. “He explained that had the vehicle been travelling at or about 20mph, then the literature and his own clinical experience show that there is only a small chance of serious injury or death,” Richard said. “He told the court that there was a strong probability that at 20 mph, my client would not have sustained more than soft tissue injures. In other words, this life-changing tragedy could have been avoided.”

After hearing all the evidence at the trial, the Judge ruled that the driver's speed in excess of 30 miles per hour was not an appropriate speed for a residential road with cars parked either side.

He upheld the claim that even at a speed of 30 mph, had the driver applied her brakes in any meaningful manner upon seeing the young boys in the road, the accident would either have not occurred at all, or at worst, would have occurred at such an impact speed that the young victim – who is now 10 - would not have sustained such serious injuries. As such, the Judge ruled that the driver and the MIB were therefore liable for 100% of the injuries the young boy sustained.

Speaking after the ruling, Richard said the family was delighted with the outcome of the liability trial. “They are understandably pleased that this ruling will finally help to achieve justice for their son and their family, some six years after he was so seriously injured in this incident,” he said.

“The injuries he sustained on that day have changed his life, and the lives of his family, forever. Following this ruling, it is now hoped that we are able to agree an appropriate settlement which takes into account the myriad expenses – such as medical bills and case management costs - he will incur over the coming years and for the rest of his life.

“While no amount of money can make up for this ordeal, we hope that my client and his family will soon be able to begin to move on with their lives, safe in the knowledge that they do not need to worry about paying for future care and treatment.”

How can Fentons Solicitors help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of serious head and brain injuries.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire