The HIGH Court has reduced an award of €223,500 made to Ms. Jade Price down to €100,575 as a result of her failure to wear a safety belt and for allowing herself to be a passenger in a vehicle where the driver had consumed excessive alcohol.
Ms. Price was a front seat passenger in a car driven by the late Mary Connors which went out of control on the N81 road on the 15th May 2010.
In the accident Ms. Connors was tragically killed and the Plaintiff suffered serious injuries, including traumatic injury to the facial area.
The driving of the vehicle on the night was not covered by any insurance policy and therefore the MIBI was a party to the proceedings. The MIBI disputed the Plaintiffs claims on 3 significant grounds:
- They said that the Plaintiff knew that there was no insurance on the car and none the less she willingly travelled in it as a passenger.
- They alleged contributory negligence in that the Plaintiff permitted herself to be carried in the car as a passenger when she knew that the Driver Ms Connors had consumed an excessive amount of alcohol and was not fit to drive.
- They said that the Plaintiff was not wearing a safety belt when the accident happened.
The Judge held that he was not satisfied that Ms. Price was aware that there was no insurance cover on the car. The Judge held that on the balance of probabilities the Plaintiff was not wearing a safety belt. Coming to this conclusion he referred to the fact that the Plaintiff did not have any injuries suggestive of a violent engagement with a seatbelt as she was being wrenched from its restraint from the violence of the impact. Furthermore her traumatic injuries to the facial area of her head indicated that her head had come in contact with some part of the car, probably the windscreen all of which tended to suggest that she was not restrained by a safety belt. He made a deduction in respect of contributory negligence in not wearing a safety belt of 25%.
In relation to the Defence submission that the Plaintiff was aware that the deceased had consumed a lot of alcohol that night before getting into the car to drive home the Judge held that he was satisfied that the Plaintiff did know that the deceased had an excessive amount of alcohol in her system when she permitted herself to be carried as a passenger. The Judge made the deduction of 30% for contributory negligence in that regard.
In assessing general damages Judge O’Neill awarded the Plaintiff €60,000 for pain and suffering to date and a further sum of €150,000 for pain and suffering into the future. He also awarded a sum of €13,500 for future treatment for her nose and some dental work. The total assessment came to €223,500.00 and the Plaintiff was entitled to recover 45% of that.