An award of pedestrian injury compensation has been reduced by a High Court judge in Belfast due to the plaintiff´s contributory negligence.
On 26th September 2010, Stacey McCaughey (24) was walking home with some friends along the Carrickmannon Road in Ballygowan after an evening out at the nearby Chestnut Inn. Due to the volume of alcohol that had been consumed, the group swayed and staggered along the unlit road unaware of any potential danger they may be in.
A car driven by Brian Mullan suddenly appeared in front of the group and, due to their confused state, they were unable to move out of the vehicle´s path. Mullan swerved to avoid hitting the group of friends but hit Stacey – sending her over the roof of the car and back onto the road.
Stacey was rushed to hospital where she remained in intensive care for four days while receiving treatment for a frontal lobe contusion, a spinal injury and multiple fractures. Since her discharge from hospital, Stacey suffers from headaches, moods swings and memory loss, and has significant facial scarring.
Stacey made a claim for pedestrian injury compensation against Mullan, claiming that he was driving too fast to avoid hitting her. Mullan disputed the claim on the basis that the group had been wandering aimlessly across the road with no regard for their own safety.
A forensic engineer verified Mullan´s version of events that he hit Stacey as he swerved to avoid other members of the group, while police who attended the scene confirmed that the driver had been sober at the time of the accident.
The claim for pedestrian injury compensation went to the Belfast High Court, where it was heard before Mr Justice O´Hara. The judge found in Stacey´s favour on the grounds that Mullan had been driving too fast along the unlit road, but also found Stacey negligent and partly responsible for her injuries.
Delivering his verdict, the judge said that Stacey had failed to look after her own safety “by walking in the middle of a dark, unlit road while drunk and incapable of being alert to traffic”. He said that had she not contributed to the cause of her injuries, he would have awarded her £110,000; however he was reducing the award of pedestrian injury compensation by 60 percent to £44,000 to account for her contributory negligence.