On 22 October 2021 the High Court in London gave judgment in the case of Lauren Parker (LP) v Clive McClaren (CM). LP, then aged 23, was on a night out with friends in York city center at 11.20pm on Saturday 6 May 2017 when she was knocked down by a taxi (driven by CM). LP ran across the road in front of the taxi and very sadly sustained a catastrophic brain injury. She was unable to give evidence at the Trial.
The Judge found as a fact that the taxi was travelling at 20mph at impact i.e. significantly above the maximum safe speed which was 15 mph. CM knew that this was a busy area with pedestrians on both sides of the road and he was alert to the danger of them emerging in front of him.
LP, on the Judge’s finding, took 1-2 seconds to run (from the driver’s side kerb) most of the way across the road to the point of impact. However, the Judge decided that CM was not to blame for failing to see her until she was very close to the car. CM was having to scan both pavements and was only able to “hit the brakes” at the last moment, reducing his speed very little.
The Judge found CM liable to compensate LP for her injuries because he was driving too fast for the particular circumstances, whereas at a safe speed (15 mph) LP would have been able to cross safely.
The Judge, however, went on to reduce LP’s compensation by 50% based on her contributory fault or “relative blameworthiness”. Although, using the Judge’s words; “a motor car is a potentially lethal instrument and there is a high burden on those who drive them”, LP was equally to blame because she “created the dangerous situation by stepping into the carriageway…if she had looked, the accident would not have occurred”.
It is unusual, in our experience, for a pedestrian’s contributory fault to be as high as 50%. Very often, Judges attribute the “lion’s share” of responsibility to the driver who (rather than a pedestrian) tends to be “in charge” of the situation ie able to assess potential hazards and take particular care.
The fact that LP ran into the path of the taxi when it was quite close to her explains the relatively high degree of blameworthiness (as found by the Judge) on her part.
Behind every case of life changing injury such as this is a personal tragedy for the injured person and their loved ones. The challenge for LP’s legal and rehabilitation team, we suspect, will be to make the 50% compensation stretch as far as possible (combined with provision from the State) to provide for lifetime losses and needs.
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