7.4.09  

Primary factual evidence is of greater importance than evidence from accident reconstruction experts when determining liability for a road traffic accident; driver not liable.  

In September 2004 Mr Stewart was hit by a BMW car being driven by Mr Glaze and suffered catastrophic head injuries. Mr Stewart and Mr Marfleet had been out drinking and at the time of the accident were “mobile but stumbling”. They were sitting at a bus stop when, without warning, Mr Stewart got up and walked to the kerb and then into the road into the path of Mr Glaze’s car.  

Held: The Judge had to apply to Mr Glaze’s actions the standard of the reasonable driver as opposed to the ideal driver; he stated that the court should not be guided by “20-20 hindsight”. It is the primary factual evidence which is of the greatest importance in a case of this kind. Expert evidence from accident reconstruction experts comprises a useful way in which this evidence can be tested but must not be elevated into a fixed framework or formula against which the defendant’s actions are to be rigidly judged. Mr Glaze was not negligent. The distances involved were very small and the case was concerned with exceptionally fine margins. The reasonable driver would not necessarily have seen Mr Stewart at the precise split second when he stepped off the kerb.  

Comment: This case is a useful reminder that, when determining liability for road traffic accidents, the court should consider the standard of a reasonable driver. Examining the actions of the defendant with the input of accident reconstruction experts and the benefit of hindsight will not necessarily result in the correct decision.  

It may well be helpful to draw this decision to the attention of claimants and their advisors in appropriate cases.