No reasonable opportunity for driver to avoid collision


[2013] EWHC 2841 (QB)

QBD (Jeremy Baker J) 20/09/2013

A car driver was not liable for a collision with a 14-year-old cyclist who pulled out from behind a parked van into the driver's carriageway, as he had not been driving too fast and had had no reasonable opportunity to avoid the collision.

The claimant (S) claimed damages against the first defendant (H) and second defendant Motor Insurers' Bureau for personal injury sustained in a road traffic accident in which he was cycling and was hit by the car H was driving.

S was 14 at the time of the accident. He had been cycling along the pavement on the side of the oncoming traffic when he pulled out into the carriageway and into H's path. H collided essentially head-on with S on his bicycle. S was severely injured and was left tetraplegic. H was uninsured at the time, hence the involvement of the second defendant. S contended that H had been driving too fast and had failed to keep a proper look out, and that his car was partly across the centre line of the road when the collision happened. H disputed that he was driving too fast, and contended that he did not see S at all before the impact. It became clear from the expert evidence that unless H's car had been straddling the centre line then, even at 30 mph, the collision was largely unavoidable because H would have had insufficient time to see S before the moment of impact.

HELD: (1) On the evidence H had been driving within the 30 mph speed limit and in his carriageway in circumstances where a lower safe speed was not required. As he approached the scene of the collision, he had already looked towards his nearside, before turning his attention to an oncoming car. At that point S emerged on his bicycle from behind a van parked on the nearside verge and into the path of H's car. H had no reasonable opportunity to avoid the collision. He had been keeping a proper look out. S had failed to establish liability (see paras 80-124 of judgment). (2) Despite its finding on liability, the court assessed both special and general damages (paras 134-253). The appropriate award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity would have been £260,000 (para.134).

Claim dismissed