Finger-pointing and protestations of innocence are commonplace in the aftermath of serious road accidents. However, as a High Court case concerning a head-on crash in which an elderly woman was badly injured showed, judges are adept at weighing up the evidence and uncovering where the truth lies.
The woman, who was in her 70s, was driving home in the dark when a taxi driver veered onto her side of the road and collided with her. He was adamant that he was forced to swerve when a van emerged into his path from a side road without stopping. The van driver was, however, equally vehement that he had halted at the stop line at the entrance to the side road and that the only part he played in the accident was to come to the woman's aid.
After the woman launched proceedings against both the taxi driver and the van driver, the Court noted that she was bound to succeed in her claim and that her damages had been agreed at £225,000. That, however, left open the question of whether the taxi driver or the van driver was to blame for the accident.
The taxi driver argued that the van driver had, following the collision, reversed back into the side road in order to cover up his role in the accident. However, after hearing evidence from both of them, together with the woman and the first police officer to arrive at the scene, the Court found that scenario to be unlikely. The van driver had not come across as the type of cunning individual who might have engaged in such a ruse.
Ruling the taxi driver wholly responsible for the accident, the Court found that he was probably mistaken in his belief that the van driver was driving, or was about to drive, out of the side road without stopping. The taxi driver had moved into the wrong lane unnecessarily and did not see the woman's oncoming car before it was too late to stop. The ruling meant that the woman's compensation would be paid by the taxi driver's insurers.