By Anthony Murphy, Partner
A passenger injured in a single vehicle accident and awarded over €190,000 in damages by the High Court has had her compensation award reduced by 40% for failing to wear a seat belt at the time of the accident and getting into a car with a driver whom she knew or ought to have known had been drinking on the night of the accident.
The High Court heard evidence that the passenger, Erin Gallagher, had been out socialising with friends in two pubs in Falcarragh, Co. Donegal on the evening of the 19th July 2008 and had consumed alcohol before her and her friends accepted a lift from the defendant whom it appeared from the evidence had also had a number of drinks that evening.
The driver while negotiating a narrow country road lost control of his vehicle hitting a telegraph pole with the left rear wheel of the car which caused the vehicle to overturn and land in a field. Ms Gallagher was thrown from the vehicle and suffered serious injuries including a head injury, fractured cheek bone and jaw, fractured shoulder, fractured ribs, lacerations and scarring, along with some soft-tissue injuries to her neck and back.
Taking into consideration the extent of the injuries and the ongoing difficulties experienced by the plaintiff Mr Justice Ryan awarded her €165,000 in general damages for her pain and suffering and €25,500 in special damages for financial losses incurred as a result of the accident. The total sum of €190,500 was however reduced by 40% to €114,300.
Mr Justice Ryan was satisfied that the plaintiff had failed to wear a seatbelt which was a contributing factor. He belived the driver was not so grossly intoxicated so as to make getting into the car wholly reckless, however it was nevertheless evident that everyone in the group including the driver had been drinking and accordingly it should have been obvious that the driver was going to be affected and incapable of exercising proper control over the vehicle.