Accident victims who suffer head injuries often have no memory of how they came to grief and, in the absence of other witnesses, that can create obvious difficulties in claiming compensation. However, as a High Court case showed, overcoming such problems is all in a day's work for experienced personal injury lawyers.
A driver's mate suffered severe head injuries when he fell off the back of a van whilst delivering bathroom equipment to a construction site. He had no recollection of the incident due to post-traumatic amnesia and no one else was present to see what happened. His damages claim was dismissed by a judge on the basis that, the cause of the accident being unknown, he had failed to prove any breach of duty on his employer's part.
In upholding the man's appeal against that outcome, the Court found that there was a crucial gap in risk assessments carried out by the employer in that they did not address the danger of falling from the van whilst the tail gate was lowered. The clearly identifiable, in some ways obvious, risk was high and it would have been reasonably practicable to instruct employees to always have the tail gate raised whilst they were in the back of delivery vehicles.
Given the man's maturity and experience, and the obviousness of the danger, the Court found that he was in part responsible for his own misfortune. However, it ruled that the employer bore 50 per cent of the blame for the accident. The amount of the man's compensation had yet to be assessed but, given the severity of his injuries, his award was bound to be substantial even after a 50 per cent reduction.