Taking risks with your own safety is often viewed as negligent – but it can be justified in emergencies. In one case which vividly illustrates the point, a brave father who lost a leg whilst trying to rescue his children from his runaway car has won the right to substantial compensation.
The father got out of his car to remonstrate after another driver collided with him in a sports club car park. After he did so, his vehicle began to move backwards down a slope towards a service area containing propane gas cylinders. Thinking only of his children, who were still inside the car, he tried to hold the vehicle back manually. His efforts failed and the car crushed him against a metal post. He suffered serious injuries to his left leg, which later had to be amputated.
Although it would normally be viewed as foolhardy to stand behind a moving car, the High Court found that, in the unusual circumstances of the case, the father had felt obliged to take a dangerous course of action in order to protect his children. He had, however, contributed to his own misfortune by failing to switch off the car's ignition, or to engage it in 'park' mode, before he got out.
In ruling the other driver 40 per cent responsible for the accident, the Court found that he failed to keep a proper lookout and reversed into the father's car in circumstances in which it was reasonably foreseeable that personal injury would result. That decision guaranteed the father a substantial payout for his injuries, the amount of which has yet to be assessed.