Drivers at fault even if pedestrians break rules

Court ruling a wake-up call for drivers who think they're not liable for injuring pedestrians who break road rules

June 13, 2012

A recent case before the Victorian Court of Appeal is a wake-up call for drivers who think they’re not to blame for injuring pedestrians who break the road rules, according to a Melbourne injury lawyer.

Henry Carus from Henry Carus & Associates says an injured person may still have a claim for damages even if they contributed to the accident.

In a recent case, the Victorian Court of Appeal ordered a re-trial when a jury incorrectly found that there was no negligence on the part of the driver who injured a pedestrian who crossed the road on a red light.

"A driver has a high duty of care to avoid injury to pedestrians," Carus says.

"This means that a driver must anticipate a pedestrian suddenly coming into the path of their vehicle."

Carus says drivers must satisfy a test of taking reasonable care under the circumstances to avoid liability.

"Perfection is not required of a driver, but the law does require an appreciation of the situation and reasonable care," he says.

During the appeal, the judge ruled that the driver who hit the pedestrian was negligent because he failed to exercise reasonable care and keep a proper lookout.

The court also found in favour of the pedestrian on the basis that if the driver had exercised reasonable care and kept a proper lookout, he would have seen the pedestrian in the vicinity of the vehicle and would have been able to react to the situation.

During initial proceedings, the court was told the pedestrian was struck while crossing a road on a dark and wet night in Melbourne.

He continued to walk across a road crossing while the sign began to flash red and had almost reached the other side of the road when a car hit him. The pedestrian was hospitalised for two weeks with a broken leg and suffered permanent serious injuries.

He launched proceedings against the driver for compensation. While admitting he should not have crossed while the light was red, the pedestrian argued the driver could have avoided the accident.

The driver told the court he did not see the victim before striking him. In the initial court case, the jury found that the driver was not negligent or at fault for the pedestrian’s injuries.

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