The High Court recently awarded a triathlete €134,000 when she was struck by the wing mirror of a van while out jogging.
On 22 January 2013, Donna Woods was out jogging with a friend on a foggy morning near Mullingar. The pair were jogging side by side when a tractor and trailer travelling in the same direction passed them. The width of the tractor and trailer caused an oncoming van being driven by Mr Joseph Tyrell Junior to veer on to the grass margin beside the road. Mr Tyrell did not immediately re-join the carriageway and his wing mirror struck Ms Woods as he passed her, knocking her to the ground. She suffered injuries to her right hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder and jaw. In addition Ms Woods experienced psychological injuries and suffered from a loss of balance, dizziness and dental pain.
Mr Tyrell accepted that some liability must attach to him but pleaded that there was contributory negligence on behalf of Ms Woods. He claimed that Ms Woods was negligent to be jogging two abreast on the road in foggy conditions. He also claimed that Ms Woods should have been wearing high visibility clothing.
Judge Cross dismissed Mr Tyrell’s arguments. He stated that the accident was “clearly caused by the defendant’s driver miscalculating”. Judge Cross found that “had the Defendant continued on the roadway the Plaintiff would have gone on to the grass margin and no accident would have occurred”. The Judge believed that the day was not as foggy as Mr Tyrell believed and that the clothing Ms Woods was wearing was adequately bright.
In awarding Ms Woods €134,000, Judge Cross commented that “it is trite law to say that the purpose of general damages is to place a plaintiff in the same position as he or she had been before the commission of the tort”.
He said that the process of assessment must be rational and that he must bear in mind that an identical injury may have considerably different effects between different persons.
Judge Cross believed that Ms Woods suffered quite significant injuries and that the 13 expert reports before him all agreed upon that. He also stated that Ms Woods presented as a pleasant witness, who was clearly distressed when recounting aspects of that accident.
The judge concluded that he was hopeful that once the trauma of litigation has passed that there would be some easing of her psychological symptoms.
This decision once again demonstrates that the Courts are willing to award large sums in respect of general damages if they feel that such damages are rational and if such damages will adequately compensate the Plaintiff for what they have lost.
A copy of the full judgment can be found here.