The claimant child (R), by her litigation friend, brought an action for negligence against the first defendant (B) and the second defendant insurer (T) following a road traffic accident.
R, who was seven years old, was struck in the late afternoon by a vehicle driven by B as she crossed a road close to her home. The road in question was a single carriageway subject to a speed limit of 20 mph with a number of speed reducing traffic management measures in place. Cars were parked on both sides of the road and an obstruction had been created by road works. On the day of the accident R, her mother and other family members had had to cross the road and cross back again to bypass the road works. R was on the opposite side of the road from the group and was beckoned to cross by her mother when she was struck by B's vehicle. She suffered a serious head injury, thoracic, abdominal and pelvic injuries. An expert (S) provided an accident reconstruction report.
R submitted that the accident was caused by B's negligence in driving too fast. T submitted that R ran out from behind a parked works vehicle into the path of B's approaching vehicle and that a collision was unavoidable, and that R was guilty of contributory negligence.
(1) The most important evidence as to the speed at which B's vehicle was travelling at the point of impact was provided by S. S was undoubtedly a well respected accident reconstruction expert of very great experience. The court accepted his opinion that the vehicle was travelling at 28-32 mph at the point of impact and the reasons he gave for arriving at that opinion. The court agreed with his assessment that the driving situation was particularly hazardous. The speed limit was 20 mph along the road in question in ideal conditions. There were pedestrians around and children were likely to be there given the time of day. A sensible driver would have appreciated that traffic calming measures were there for a good reason. Obvious hazards were created by the road layout, the presence of parked vehicles narrowing the road and inevitably obstructing the view to a certain extent both of the pavement and of the junction, by the road works near the junction and by the junction itself into which B was driving. In the circumstances, a reasonable and appropriate speed when approaching the junction was no more than 15 mph. R had discharged the burden of establishing her case on liability on the balance of probabilities and succeeded in her action for negligence (see paras 32, 43, 46, 51 of judgment). (2) R was hit by a vehicle being driven negligently at or approaching what was twice the reasonable speed, and at some margin over the speed limit. Had the vehicle been driven even at the 20 mph speed limit the accident would not have happened. There was no basis for a finding of contributory negligence in those circumstances against a child who was only seven years old (paras 50-51).
Judgment for claimant
Taking account of the hazards created by the road layout, the presence of parked cars and road works, and the fact that the speed limit was 20 mph along the road in question in ideal conditions, a driver had been negligent in travelling at a speed of between 28 to 32 mph when he struck a child. In all the circumstances a reasonable speed would have been no more than 15 mph.