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Written on 22nd August 2023 by Kim Milan

Boyes Turner’s personal injury solicitors have secured a liability judgment and an interim payment for a 12-year-old girl who suffered a serious head injury when she was hit by a car after she ran into the road at a pedestrian crossing.

We pursued the child’s compensation claim to a High Court trial when the driver of the car, a hospital consultant, refused to accept any responsibility for the accident and our client’s injuries or discuss settlement of her claim.

At trial, His Honour Deputy High Court Judge Dexter Dias KC found that the driver’s “excessive, unsafe and unreasonable speed” was primarily responsible for the collision which probably would have been avoided if she had reduced her speed to take account of dark and wet road conditions, bus stops, a pedestrian crossing and the presence of children on the pavement. The Judge found the driver 60% liable for the accident.

We had accepted that our client’s actions had also contributed to the accident, as she had run into the road when the traffic lights at the crossing were green. Based on the expected standards of care for a 12-year-old child crossing the road, the finding of 40% contributory negligence means that our client will receive 60% of the potential full compensation award for her injuries.

The Judge also ordered the defendant (via her insurers) to make a £25,000 interim (advance) payment to our client.

The accident

Our 12-year-old client was walking to school on a dark, rainy morning when she stepped into the road at a traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing. The defendant driver was on her way to the hospital where she works. She was driving at 28mph, just within the 30mph speed limit, when her car hit the child, whose head struck the windscreen, causing a serious head injury and subarachnoid brain haemorrhage with ongoing neurological disability.

Judgment at trial

In his detailed and carefully considered judgment, the Judge found that the driver was very familiar with the road which she had driven many times before at a similar time in the morning on her regular route to work. She was looking ahead and was not consciously aware of the child waiting at the pedestrian crossing, who would have been visible to her from 30 metres away, because she was driving with an element of autopilot and was not paying proper attention. Her familiarity with the regular drive along the road, and the fact that she was within the speed limit and felt safe, meant that she did not adapt her driving to the obvious risks of the situation. These included the need to reduce her speed from the ‘absolute maximum speed’ that the 30mph speed limit dictated for that stretch of road, to take into account the presence of children around the bus stop on the opposite pavement, whom the Highway Code describes as being among ‘the most vulnerable road users’. The Judge found that she had breached multiple Highway Code provisions, and that the combination of her excessive and unsafe speed and lack of sufficient attention to conditions and other road users fell below the standard of a reasonably competent and experienced driver. If she had reduced her speed to take account of the conditions the collision and the child’s injuries probably would have been avoided.

The Judge described this case as ‘a paradigm example of why it is so essential to be prudent and vigilant when children are or are likely to be in the vicinity of vehicles moving at speed'.  Driving within the speed limit alone did not satisfy the driver’s duty to take care or responsibility towards other, particularly vulnerable users of the road. In this case, the Judge found that the driver’s approach to the requirements of the Highway Code was flawed. Instead of adjusting her speed to the conditions, she had relied upon whether she was feeling unsafe herself. Her focus on her own feelings of safety, rather than the possible impact on other road users revealed ‘a troubling absence of concern for other road users and the potential danger her vehicle moving at speed in suboptimal conditions presents’.

‘While this case is not about a fatality, it shows yet again how dangerous it is to drive at excessive and unreasonable speed. There is a common misconception that if one is driving just below the speed limit, this is sufficient to be a reasonable and competent driver. It may not be. The maximum speed limit is not a target or an infallibly safe measure. It is an absolute upper limit, only justified if conditions and the road situation are sufficiently good to permit it. This, essentially, was the error that Dr Chandran fell into’.

The Judge paid tribute to the ‘immense dignity and restraint shown by the child’s parents, who sat through the entire trial, hearing very distressing details about the circumstances in which serious injury was inflicted upon their daughter. At not a single point did they visibly display any anger or even incredulity while listening to the evidence, even when, as I have found, Dr Chandran gave answers that simply could not have been right. In this, they showed great respect for the court process and all parties. What has happened has without question been life-altering for both of them and their child.’

An anonymity order protects the child and her family’s privacy.

Court dismissed driver’s request for leave to appeal

The defendant driver applied to the court for leave to appeal the judgment, but this was refused by the Judge on all grounds. The driver’s insurers repeatedly tried to delay payment of the interim payment that had been ordered by the Judge. We allowed a short extension of the payment deadline until the court refused the defendant leave to appeal, and then prepared to take enforcement proceedings when the defendant’s insurers continued to delay payment. As the deadline approached, the insurers made the payment, at an agreed increased sum to compensate our client for the delay.

We are now working with our client’s family and our experts to assess the lifelong impact of our client’s injury and to value the claim in preparation for settlement negotiations or an assessment of damages by the court.

If you have been seriously injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault and you would like to find out more about funded rehabilitation or making a claim, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.