Apportioning responsibility for road traffic accidents is not always straightforward but expert lawyers in the field are well versed in uncovering where the truth lies. In one case, a pedestrian injured on the pavement by a runaway lorry has been guaranteed substantial compensation after the vehicle's owner and the mechanic who was working on it at the time were both found negligent.
The 7.5-tonne lorry was causing a traffic obstruction after running out of diesel and its owner had called the experienced mechanic to the scene. Its handbrake had not been engaged and it was held in place on a steep slope only by its automatic emergency braking system. Whilst the mechanic worked on the vehicle, the braking system disengaged and it sped down the hill with no one in the cab. It struck a woman as she walked along the pavement, causing grave multiple injuries.
In ruling on the case, the High Court found the lorry's owner 25 per cent responsible for the accident in failing to check that the handbrake was engaged and in failing to inform the mechanic that it was not. However, the lion's share of blame – 75 per cent – lay with the mechanic, who should have appreciated the risk but had failed to deal with it because he was anxious to get the job done quickly. The amount of the pedestrian's compensation has yet to be assessed but is bound to be a substantial sum given the extent of her injuries.