Accident victim wore no seatbelt

Posted: 6th August 2015

taxisA young man who was catastrophically injured when a taxi was involved in a head-on collision after skidding on ice is in line for multi-million-pound compensation – but his award will be reduced by 25% because he was not wearing a seatbelt.

The 23-year-old was only about two minutes into his ride when the crash occurred. His head was propelled forward by the impact and struck a structural pillar beside the windscreen. He suffered grave spinal fractures and was left paralysed from the neck downwards and in need of 24-hour care.

The taxi driver’s insurers admitted primary liability for the accident. However, a judge later found that, had the man being wearing a seatbelt, he would have suffered only minor whiplash symptoms which would have cleared up within six months. On that basis his entitlement to damages was reduced by one quarter.

Challenging that decision before the Court of Appeal, his lawyers argued that it was extremely harsh, given that the cab driver was plainly far more blameworthy than his passenger. The latter was trying to put on his seatbelt when the accident occurred and was very unlucky that his head hit the pillar, rather than the softer windscreen.

Rejecting the appeal and confirming the established approach, the Court noted that it was a case in which the man’s failure to wear a seat belt had, for all intents and purposes, made all the difference. The amount of the man’s damages had yet to be assessed. However, given the extent of his care needs, his payout was bound to run well into seven figures even after the 25 per cent reduction.