Monday 25 September 2017

Accidents 'not always someone else's fault' - High Court judge dismisses claim, questions motorist's answers

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Stock Photo

Tim Healy

ACCIDENTS "are not always someone else's fault", a High Court judge said when dismissing a man's damages claim over a midsummer's evening road accident.

The accident on June 21, 2013, probably happened because Jason Flynn was driving at an unsafe speed of 50km an hour around a bend where loose chippings were placed, Mr Justice Michael Twomey said.

Because of "disingenuous" answers from Mr Flynn about an earlier accident in 2012, the judge said he was treating "with caution" Mr Flynn's claim he was travelling at 50km an hour when he came into the bend.

Evidence also indicated his car ended up in a ditch after travelling a "considerable distance" of perhaps 70-80 metres after braking.

If Mr Flynn had taken sufficient care and heeded warning signs, he would have slowed his speed to 35 km per hour and there would have been no accident, he found.

"When accidents happen, they are not always someone else's fault and it is this court's view that this is such an accident."

The judge dismissed Mr Flynn's claim South Tipperary County Council was liable for damages over shoulder injuries allegedly suffered in the accident about 5pm on June 21st 2013.  The Council denied liability.

Mr Flynn (38), of Tullow, Killalusty, Co Tipperary, claimed he lost control of his car when driving around a bend on the Fethard to Killenaule road because there were excessive loose chippings on the road and no warning signs. 

He claimed he was travelling at no more than 50km per hour from the apex of the bend in the road when he lost control of the car. He claimed there were no visible signs warning of loose chippings, men at work or signs indicating the safe speed to travel was 35km per hour and, had he seen a 35km per hour sign, would have driven at that speed and not have had the accident.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Twomey said medical notes concerning another accident in 2012 recorded that a car in which Mr Flynn was a passenger had, following contact with another vehicle, crashed into a wall, ended up in a ditch and was not drivable. 

After that accident, Mr Flynn attended his doctor complaining of pain in his left shoulder and, in his claim concerning the June 2013 accident, alleged he had reduced movement in the same left shoulder.

When providing particulars of his claim, Mr Flynn did not refer to the 2012 accident and, when challenged about that, gave "disingenuous" answers including that questions put to him suggested he was the driver in the earlier accident when he was a passenger.

The judge said Mr Flynn, in his answers, expressly stated "the only accident that I had was on the Fethard-Killenaule road".

The judge described as "convincing" evidence from a road overseer that warning signs were put in place on June 6th 2013 every 120 metres before the bend which indicated men at work, loose chippings and appropriate speed of 35km an hour. The overseer said those signs were in place on June 19th while other evidence indicated two speed signs on the road at the time of the accident and more signs were put up afterwards.

This contrasted with Mr Flynn's evidence there were no visible signs whatever on the road, he said.

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