It seems as though a 12 year long motor vehicle accident case is finally being put to rest.
In 2005, a NSW family consisting of mother, father and two-year old son was hit by a Toyota van, a collision which spun their car around into the path of a large truck. The accident resulted in the severe physical and mental disfigurement of the toddler, Layton Smith, yet the offending driver’s insurance company is not being required to pay damages. Why?
A peculiar case and a legal loophole
According to officials, the driver of the van was not legally at fault because he was presumably already dead. The man suffered a heart attack while driving, causing the vehicle to swerve out of control, cross a median strip and ultimately collide with the Smiths’ car.
Because the driver was either unconscious or already deceased at the time of the accident, it cannot be attributed to negligence – therefore, his insurance company, NRMA, was not liable to pay damages, despite the accident being completely out of the Smiths’ control.
The Smith family took the NRMA to court in an attempt to prove that the van driver had been conscious during the accident and that the blame therefore lay with him. In the initial trial, the judge was not satisfied that the driver was conscious, so the Smiths appealed.
In what seemed to be the final decision in July 2017, the court ruled that (although they had the utmost sympathy for Layton Smith) they could not make the claim of negligence against a driver who was already dead. The law has since been changed, but Layton Smith remains a victim of the bizarre legal loophole.
Lessons to be learned from this case
The most important lesson to be gleaned from this unfortunate case is the importance of establishing negligence in a motor vehicle accident. Individuals who have been injured, physically or psychologically, by a car accident caused by someone else must be able to prove the offending party’s negligence – this can be established through photos, police reports and medical records.
Luckily for current drivers, the law in NSW now allows compensation for injured drivers – regardless of where the fault lies – meaning a situation like Layton Smith’s is unlikely to repeat itself, especially if you have a team of experienced lawyers by your side.
If you’ve recently been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. Please contact a member of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.