Eyewitness Evidence Preferred to That of Experts

When a car hits a pedestrian, it is usual for the driver of the car to be held to be at fault, but this is not always the case.

When a man sprinted across a dual carriageway and was struck on the leg by a passing car, the High Court concluded that the driver was not responsible for the accident.

The man who was hit made a claim against the driver, although he himself had no recollection of the incident. He claimed that the driver was negligent because she had not braked quickly enough.

The only witnesses were the driver of the car that hit him and the driver of a car behind that one. The defendant claimed she had braked as hard and as quickly as she could and that the accident was unavoidable. Her recollection of the incident and that of the other driver, who corroborated her evidence, was clear.

Although the police report had indicated the presence of 'icy conditions', accident reconstruction specialists acting as expert witnesses gave evidence based on the potential road conditions at the time, concluding that the accident could not be blamed on an icy road surface. The car had come to rest within a few yards of the collision, which indicated that the presence of ice was not a material factor. This in turn pointed to the accident being the fault of the driver.

The High Court considered that the evidence of the witnesses to the accident was to be preferred to the mathematical analysis of the accident reconstruction specialists and dismissed the claim, finding that to uphold it would be imposing an unrealistically high standard of care on drivers.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the lower court.

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