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No compensation

29th August 1996, Page 46
29th August 1996
Page 46
Page 46, 29th August 1996 — No compensation
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

In 1994 I drove a Daf 2800 artic on the M40 towards London and turned off on to the M25 slip road to travel south. I do not remember anything else until I woke up in hospital two weeks later with a serious head injury.

I have never been blamed for the accident even though the artic was written off along with 100 yards of motorway barrier. No other vehicle was involved.

I don't think the vehicle was examined by police or anyone. The Lancashire firm I worked for had the tractor carried back to its depot where it was cut up.

I am out of work, on incapacity benefit and do not seem to be able to get any compensation from anyone for my injuries. The vehicle was only insured for third-party risks.

Solicitors have told me I have to find someone at fault before! can make a claim. Is that right ?

I A I To recover any damages

for your injuries and loss of earnings you would have to be able to prove that someone else was to blame for the accident in question.

But you should also bear in mind that, without there being any explanation for the accident, there is an inference that you were not driving carefully If the accident was due to your own actions you would not be able to sue anyone for damages.

Very often accidents result in a negligence action against the party responsible for the damage. In a negligence action you would have to prove, on the balance of probability, that the defendant owed you a duty of care, that he was in breach of that duty and, as a result, you suffered injuries and loss.

As the accident occurred some 200 miles from your employer's premises the only material object which connects you to him at that time is the lorry If the accident occurred due to a defect in the lorry which your employer should have known about, by properly maintaining the vehicle, a negligence action could be based on his failure to provide a safe vehicle. But it appears you have no evidence of any defect in the vehicle.

An action could also be based on a breach of statutory duty, such as failing to maintain the vehicle in a roadworthy condition but, again, you have no evidence of that.

If the highway was defective in some way you might have a cause of action against the highway authority but there appears to be no evidence of that either.

Consequently, it appears you have no grounds for legal action against anyone.

From the information you give, it appears there is no known reason why the lorry left the road and, due to that, a court would question whether you had been driving it with the amount of care required. On several occasions the High Court has ruled that, where an accident occurs and there is no explanation for it, there is an inference that the driver of the vehicle was driving without due care and attention.

In the case of Jarvis vs Williams (1979) RTR 497 a car had left the road after a sharp bend and rolled over more than once. No other vehicle was involved and the accident could not be attributed to any defect in the vehicle or the condition of the road or to the weather. The driver was prosecuted for driving without due care and attention but did not give evidence and offered no explanation for the

accident. Magistrates dismissed the charge on the grounds that there had been no firm evidence as to the cause of the accident and the prosecution had not proved its case.

Following earlier decisions, the High Court ruled that there was an overwhelming inference that the vehicle bad left the road and rolled over because the driver had not been driving it properly. The inference which must be drawn, it said, was that the driver was driving too fast to get round the bend or he was not looking and paying enough attention. The magistrates were directed to convict the driver of careless driving.


Organisations: High Court
Locations: London

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