Injury Prevention Week 17-21 August 2020
As Lanyon Bowdler is an Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) accredited firm, I was pleased to hear that APIL had decided to expand their Injury Prevention awareness campaign to a full week, 17 - 21 August. With schools going back in the coming weeks across the country due to the easing of lockdown, I have carefully been thinking about road safety, in particular concerning children. As a busy mum of three young children, road safety is always at the forefront of my and my husband’s mind whenever we are walking with our children. We are perhaps a little too cautious however and do not let them walk too far on their own. During lockdown, I have been able to spend more time with the children and have taken more family walks than we would previously have done (I will admit this shamefully!).
My eldest has just turned 11, meaning come 2 September she will be one of the cohort of new starters at her secondary school. The shear scariness of starting a new school aside, she was concerned about the walk to and from school, as were we. We gave this some serious thought as the route will require her to cross a busy major road and navigate her way around a large roundabout on the major road. Test walks have been carried out and a plan is in place for family Moulton come return to school time.
All of these considerations gave me pause for thought. I have been involved in many cases over my 10 years in the personal injury department at Lanyon Bowdler and have seen many child pedestrians injured by drivers not paying attention or driving too fast.
The Highway Code Rule 204 states that: “The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is particularly important to be aware of children, older and disabled people, and learner and inexperienced drivers and riders”.
Children are especially at risk during school pick up and leaving times, given their uniforms are generally of dark colour making them less visible when walking to or from school. A child is certainly less likely to be seen immediately by a driver than an adult would be.
Accidents involving pedestrians can cause injuries ranging from something minor to something more serious, leaving them with permanent physical and/or cognitive impairments and on occasion can be fatal. The Department for Transport conducted a review on child casualties in 2015 and concluded that children under 16 are the most vulnerable road users. This is due to them not being experienced and as well educated about using the road as most adults.
The charity, Brake, has also carried out research and in 2018 found that of 456 pedestrian deaths that year in the UK, 48 were children.
When faced with a personal injury claim, a Court will usually take the view that a vehicle is a lethal weapon, putting a high burden upon any driver when considering any reason they may put forward such as “they came from nowhere”. A Judge is often likely to take this as evidence that the driver was not sufficiently paying attention.
Even if a driver is found to be at fault insurers often allege contributory negligence against the pedestrian. Courts have to take into account the degree of blameworthiness and the contribution the negligence makes to the accident and injuries. A Court will assess the facts of each case to determine apportionment of liability between the parties. This is not easy to do between a child and a driver. This is where the burden is greater upon a driver of a “lethal weapon”.
Children are not adults and may not have the same level of self-control as an adult in dangerous situations. Case law indicates the level of contributory negligence increases as they get older.
Since no two cases are the same, this can be where the difficulty arises. Even though a Judge may find the defendant negligent for not keeping a proper lookout, they will also take into account the child’s age and actions, and apportion some blame to them as the Judge may be of the opinion that the child should have been aware of the dangers of crossing the road.
With the easing of lockdown I would urge parents to spend time during the remainder of the holidays in ensuring their precious little ones are up to speed on road safety by learning or being reminded of the Green Cross Code. I certainly will be. Prevention is better than cure as they say!