Contributory negligence in road traffic accidents involving a pedestrian
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It is very rare indeed for a pedestrian to be found more responsible than a driver unless the pedestrian has suddenly moved into the path of an oncoming vehicle... "The Court has consistently imposed upon the drivers of cars a higher burden to reflect the fact that the car is potentially a dangerous weapon": Latham LJ in Lunt v Kheilfa (2002)
This seems to be the case even if the Claimant was very drunk at the time of the accident.
In Lightfoot (by his Litigation Friend Colin Lightfoot) -v- Go Ahead Plc (2011) the Claimant was claiming damages for serious injuries against the Defendant's employee as a result of its driver's negligence. The Defendant claimed that the Claimant's injuries were caused or contributed to by the Claimant's own negligence.
The Defendant was the owner of the bus and its employee, Mr Kent, was the driver. The Claimant was a pedestrian.
The accident occurred very shortly after the bus had left the bus stop, and it was dark and the road was unlit. The speed limit was 50 mph for buses but the bus was only travelling at 23 to 25 mph. The bus was being driven on dipped headlights. The claimant contended that it was negligent for Mr Kent not to have engaged main beam headlights.
There are witnesses that saw the Claimant prior to the accident. One lady saw him stagger from the footpath into the middle of the carriageway, another sold him a bottle of vodka at the Spar Grocery shop and said he was slurring his words, another saw him come out of the Spar Grocery shop with a bottle of Vodka in his hand and stagger into the path of a car which swerved to avoid him. He was refused entry to the Langley Park Public House, so consumed the bottle of vodka and left the bottle on the ground before leaving. It was quite clear from the evidence that the Claimant was very drunk at the time of the accident.
The accident was recorded on the bus's CCTV camera. The Claimant was on or near the centre of the white lines before the collision occurred. The camera picked this up 2.5 second before impact.
Evidence showed that the Claimant would have been identifiable at a distance of 30 metres and it would have been possible to stop the bus prior to impact. CCTV footage showed Mr Kent to be looking down at a bus timetable and not forward at the road ahead. He therefore was not observing the prime rule of driving, to keep a good look out. Had he been looking forward he could have avoided the collision.
Liability was apportioned 60% to the Defendant and 40% to the Claimant.
Kaye Mansbridge, a Legal Executive in Blake Lapthorn's Personal injury team comments: "If the Defendant is alleging contributory negligence then it needs to be able to prove that the Claimant is contributory negligent. In this case it was successful due to the witness evidence that showed he was in a intoxicated state". In the case of Kotula -v- EDF Energy Networks (EPN) Ltd (2011) they were not. In this case the Claimant sustained serious injuries when passing through a traffic management system erected by the Defendants around an excavation in a pavement. The route was hazardous because it was narrow, curved, ramped and obstructed by a metre high wooden post located in the middle of pavement between the plastic barriers. As a result the Claimant fell into the roadside barriers into the road and got run over by a lorry. The Defendants claimed contributory negligence but were unable to prove the Claimant beared any responsibility for the accident.
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