The NSW Supreme Court has ruled that a driver who collided with a nine-year-old pedestrian in 2003 was negligent and should pay damages. The crash caused significant car accident injuries for the child, including severe head trauma.
The incident occurred when the plaintiff, a girl, was attempting to cross a road outside her school. Her sister, the only witness to the accident, claimed the plaintiff was waiting in a parking lane with her bicycle when the defendant’s car veered into the lane and struck her.
However, the defendant and his passenger gave a different account. They argued the girl was attempting to cross the road on her bike without warning, which didn’t give the vehicle enough time to stop. Evidence and analysis from various experts and police officers supported this claim and the sister’s account was largely set aside.
The judge therefore acknowledged that the girl, who had developmental problems, was in the main carriageway when the collision occurred. Nevertheless, Justice Stephen Campbell said the driver still held responsibility for the accident.
Firstly, the girl had been approaching in the opposite direction to the car. Justice Campbell stated the defendant should have seen the girl in plenty of time and been aware of the potential danger of her unexpectedly crossing the road.
Instead, a statement from the driver, who failed to appear in court for the hearing, said he had not seen the girl at any point before the accident. Expert witnesses argued that had the defendant been paying attention, he could have altered his speed to reduce the severity of the impact.
While the defence team tried to suggest contributory negligence, based on the fact the plaintiff wasn’t wearing a helmet and crossed into traffic without looking, the judge rejected this.
Justice Campbell said it is not unusual for children to show a disregard for their safety and exhibit momentary lapses in concentration. Furthermore, the girl’s developmental disability means she had the cognitive capacity of a much younger child.
The judge decided contributory negligence should be ignored, with liability for the accident falling solely on the defendant. This means the plaintiff will receive damages without deductions.
The exact amount of injury compensation is yet to be decided, as both parties agreed to hear the case for liability first without assessing and calculating a potential payout.
A later hearing will take place to outline damages, with the defendant also liable for the plaintiff’s legal fees.