The Supreme Court of Queensland has recently awarded damages in the sum of $987,654.99 to a pedestrian injured in a motor vehicle accident, whom the insurer alleged was contributorily negligent for the accident. 

Circumstances of the Accident

The subject incident occurred on the night of 9 April 2020. The Plaintiff, Christopher Eden, alleged that at the time of the subject incident he was walking on the left-hand side of Dysart Bypass Road, in the direction of travel, approximately fifty (50) centimetres from the edge of the roadway.  

 

It was the evidence of the Defendants that rather than being fifty (50) centimetres from the edge of the roadway at the time of the incident, the Plaintiff was in fact in the middle of the left-hand lane of Dysart Bypass, and that he was only seen by the Defendant when about ten (10) metres from the Plaintiff.  

 

It was uncontested that the Defendant struck the Plaintiff, prior to veering to the right-hand lane and colliding with a cyclist.  

 

By way of their amended defence, the Defendants denied liability for the circumstances of the subject incident, or alternatively alleged contributory negligence. The Defendants further alleged that the Plaintiff’s conduct was in contravention of s 238 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Road Rules) Regulations 2019 (Qld), which dictates that a pedestrian travelling along a road must face approaching traffic that is moving in the direction opposite to which the pedestrian is travelling.

Decision

With respect to liability, the court found in favour of the Plaintiff, with His Honour Justice Crow opining that the Defendant caused the subject incident by virtue of failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to take evasive action and steer clear in a timely manner, and that those failures were the substantial cause of the collision. In the court’s view, had the Defendant been keeping a proper lookout, he would have observed the Plaintiff from a distance of about eighty (80) metres, and would therefore had ample time to either stop his vehicle, or at least steer clear of the Plaintiff.  

 

With respect to the alleged contributory negligence of the Plaintiff, Crow J opined that the Defendants had not discharged their onus to show that the Plaintiff was negligent. In the court’s opinion, there was little the Plaintiff could have done to avoid the collision.  

 

Regarding the Plaintiff’s contravention of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Road Rules) Regulations 2019 (Qld), Crow J was satisfied that there was no other reasonably practicable area for the Plaintiff to walk down the road. It was the Plaintiff’s evidence that the right-hand side of the road was unsuitable, as it contained a culvert running along its side which was steep-sided, and therefore not safely navigable by pedestrians. Walking further than fifty (50) centimetres from the edge of the roadway on its left-hand side was equally unsuitable in the Plaintiff’s view, due to long grass, with the Plaintiff concerned about snakes and uneven ground.  

 

As to quantum, awards of $126,128.00 and $598,990.00 were made for past and future economic loss respectively. Further awards were made for past and future loss of superannuation benefits, general damages, and past and future special damages.  

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