Nightmare on Station Street
- By James Ferguson
We recently considered a case where ‘fault’ rested solely with the injured party ('Who do you blame for... accidents?'). What, however, it the position where the Court considers that fault is shared between the parties? This is a question that was recently considered by the High Court in Belfast.
By way of background, the Plaintiff visited W5 at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast with her family over Halloween in 2013. As they were returning to their car about lunchtime, they had to cross the road at the traffic lights outside the Odyssey. The Plaintiff’s husband and their daughter were in front of her. As she followed some way behind with their son in her arms, she was struck by the Defendant’s van.
Quantum was agreed between the parties at £150,000. The question for the Court was who to blame?
The Court was satisfied on the evidence that the lights were flashing green when the Plaintiff left the footpath. A large lorry was stationary but preparing to move off from the crossing when the Plaintiff went to cross. She was clearly visible and able to pass it without difficulty. The presence of the lorry, however, obstructed the Plaintiff’s view of the next lane of traffic, containing the Defendant, as it did his view of the Plaintiff.
As the Defendant approached the crossing, the traffic light would have been flashing amber. He was not travelling at speed. It seems probable that the Plaintiff walked into the side of the van on the crossing, sustaining injury. Remarkably, her son was not injured.
The Court was satisfied that the Plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence: the flashing light on the crossing ought to have alerted her to the potential danger. That said, it was concluded that the greater blame lay with the driver with liability being split on an 80/20 basis.
The takeaway here is that there is a duty on all road users, be they drivers, cyclists or pedestrians, to exercise due caution.
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