Payout cut by €70k as victim knew driver was drinking
A JUDGE has stripped a care worker of more than €70,000 of a compensation award because she knew the driver of a car in which she was injured in a road crash had been drinking.
Senior gardai have welcomed the ruling, saying it is a "stark warning" to passengers who get into cars with drivers who have been drinking. Mr Justice Sean Ryan said mother-of-two Erin Gallagher (31), from Gortahork, Co Donegal, should have known it was "highly probable" Oliver McGeady's ability to drive was "seriously impaired" by the fact that he had drank seven bottles of beer.
He said an award of €196,000 would have been appropriate for Ms Gallagher. However, as the married mother of two knew the driver of the car had been drinking and had not been wearing a seat belt herself, the judge knocked 40 per cent off this figure, reducing the award to €114,300. The High Court action for damages arose out of significant head injuries the child-care worker suffered when the car she was a passenger in went out of control on a narrow side road in Co Donegal struck a pole and and overturned several times before coming to rest upside down in a field.
Rejecting suggestions that alcohol was not necessarily responsible for the accident, the judge said the driver Oliver McGeady had said he drank seven bottles of beer over a two- and-a-half hour period before getting into his car with Ms Gallagher, her then boyfriend, now husband, and two other passengers.
While he personally felt Mr McGeady "may have drank more", that was the evidence, the judge said.
Gardai also reported a strong smell of drink from Mr McGeady at the scene but were unable to breathalyse him due to his injuries. He was also too badly hurt to give a blood sample at Letterkenny hospital later.