Widow blameless in Portuguese tragedy

Posted: 2nd April 2014

RCJA widow who suffered catastrophic injuries and whose husband died when they were knocked down by a negligent Portuguese driver whilst on a family holiday has been awarded the right to very substantial compensation by the High Court. The insurers’ claim that Mr and Mrs Vann were themselves negligent in failing to keep a proper lookout was rejected.

June Vann, 60, suffered two shattered legs and a traumatic brain injury when she was knocked down as she and her husband, Martin, left a restaurant in the Algarve and walked across the road in September 2010. Mrs Vann was just ‘an arm’s length’ away from her horrified daughter when the car hit her. Her 65-year-old husband died from his injuries about two weeks after the collision.

Guaranteeing her at least a six-figure sum in compensation from Portuguese insurers for her injuries and her loss of dependency on her husband, the Court found that the driver was wholly responsible for the accident. 

Finding that the motorist had been driving too fast for the prevailing conditions, the Court noted that road visibility was poor at the time and that the driver had been ‘a little nervous’ because his vehicle's brakes had been ‘behaving rather strangely’ immediately before the collision.

"Having regard to all these factors, he should have slowed down. He ought to have expected that there may be pedestrians in the road…if the driver had been keeping an adequate lookout, he would have seen Mr and Mrs Vann at a distance of 60 metres before the impact. On the agreed evidence, if he had been travelling at 43mph, he would have been able to brake and avoid the collision entirely,” the Court ruled.

Also rejecting allegations of contributory negligence against Mr and Mrs Vann, the Court concluded, “They had very little time to react or get out of the path of the vehicle. They had no more than seconds to respond. There is no evidence that they were dawdling or not keeping a proper lookout.” The amount of Mrs Vann’s damages was left over for assessment at a later date.