Tuesday 19 March 2019

Man's €60,000 injuries claim dismissed due to inconsistent evidence

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Tim Healy

A High Court judge has dismissed a man’s claim for €60,000 damages over injuries allegedly suffered when he was a passenger in a car which ended up in a ditch on a country road in Co Offaly.

In light of the documentary evidence contradicting Patrick Ward’s version of events, including how the car ended up in the ditch, Mr Justice Michael Twomey was not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, he was a credible witness "regarding anything that allegedly happened" on the night of the accident.  

He could not be satisfied whether Mr Ward was in the front or back seat, asleep or awake, whether the car slipped coming around a bend or on the straight, whether it slipped on snow or the road conditions were okay, whether it drove into a ditch as a result of an oncoming car or went straight into the ditch with no other cars in the vicinity, how the car ended up in the ditch "or indeed any detail of the claim as alleged by Mr Ward".

Patrick Ward, of Kilcruttin, Tullamore, Co Offaly, had sued Michael Ward, the driver of the car, of the same address over the accident on a country road from Shannobridge to Cloghan, Co Offaly, at 1am on Febuary 16, 2016. He also sued the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland and Liberty Insurance DAC.

Before the hearing, an issue arose regarding alleged threadbare tyres on the car and, because it was unclear if Liberty would indemnify Michael Ward concerning any damages, the MIBI was also joined as a defendant.

Michael Ward was not represented in the case.

The judge said the engineering evidence was the accident occurred on a very straight stretch of road and it seemed the car ended up in a ditch and came into contact with a gate pillar.

Mr Ward alleged he sustained neck and rib injuries and an injury to his eye. His evidence was those cleared up in a few months and the only treatment he received was pain-killers, anti-inflammatories and eye drops. 

The evidence was, within two weeks of the accident, Mr Ward told his GP he was ok but, although he is unemployed and thus has no loss of earnings, he claimed €60,000 damages over the injuries, the judge noted.

Mr Ward also said in one form for the personal injuries assessment board he was a front seat passenger when the car went around a bend and lost control but in another form, and a reply to particulars, was described as a back seat passenger when the car skidded in snow.

While his solicitor had said he assumed the reference in the reply to particulars to back seat was a mistake on the solicitor’s part, Mr Ward was bound by that reply, the judge said. While it was possible the solicitor’s assumption was correct and Mr Ward was a front seat passenger, it was "equally possible" Mr Ward did instruct his solicitor he was in the back seat.

Another man has brought a personal injuries claim over the same accident alleging he was in the front seat but in replies to particulars said he was in the back, he noted.

A consultant in emergency medicine also reported Mr Ward was a front seat passenger and the cause of the accident was not snow or a bend but a car travelling in the opposite direction which forced the Ward car into the side of the road and into a pillar.

Mr Ward maintained in evidence he was in the front seat and never accepted any responsibility for the inconsistencies in the evidence but simply blamed his solicitor or doctor for incorrectly referencing what he said or the other man for allegedly giving false statements in his personal injury summons, the judge said.

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