Road accident victims who believe that they can only win compensation if they are entirely free from blame could not be more wrong. In a case on point, a pedestrian who was struck and severely injured by a cab driver has won the right to substantial damages even though she was in part the author of her own misfortune.
The woman was walking to a bus stop with friends in the early hours of the morning, following an office Christmas party, when disaster struck. She had made it across one carriageway of a busy road before the cab hit her after she stepped off a traffic island with a view to crossing the other. She suffered grave orthopaedic injuries and moderate to severe brain damage that will always blight her life. She had no recollection of the accident due to post-traumatic amnesia.
After proceedings were launched on her behalf, the High Court found on the basis of CCTV footage and evidence from eyewitnesses and accident reconstruction experts that the cab driver bore 70 per cent of the blame for the accident. He had an unobstructed view of the well-lit traffic island on a clear night, but had not seen the pedestrian until the moment of collision. He should have identified her as a potential hazard, particularly late at night during the festive period when it could be foreseen that many pedestrians would be the worse for wear.
In ruling the woman 30 per cent responsible for the accident, the Court noted that she was undoubtedly under the influence of alcohol, although not excessively intoxicated. The approaching cab would have been clearly visible to her before she stepped off the traffic island had she been paying proper attention.
The Court's ruling means that the amount of the woman's compensation will be cut by 30 per cent to take account of her own contributory negligence. Even on that reduced basis, however, the severity of her injuries means that she will receive very substantial damages. In the absence of agreement as to the amount of her award, that will be assessed at a further hearing.