Judge Finds Split Liability in Pedestrian Car Accident Case

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A judge at the Belfast High Court has declared split liability in a case of a pedestrian being hit by a car, stating that the woman's intoxicated state was contributory to the accident.

In September 2010, Stacey McCaughey (24) was walking home after an evening with friends in the nearby inn. As she was walking along the Carrickmannon Road in Balloygowan, she was struck by a car. The emergency services were notified, and she was immediately taken to hospital. After initial treatment, she was placed in intensive care. She remained there for four days, suffering from a frontal lobe contusion, a spinal injury and multiple fractured bones. Due to brain trauma, she suffers severe mood swings, headaches and memory loss to this day. She also has significant facial scarring.

Stacey sought legal counsel, and made a claim for compensation for a pedestrian hit by a car injury against the driver of the vehicle-Brian Mullen. She alleged that he had been driving too quickly along the unlit road, and would not have been able to avoid her. 

Mullen and his solicitors disputed this claim, stating that Stacey herself had been under the influence of alcohol and was wandering across the road. Therefore, she had been negligent in her own safety. A forensic engineer was consulted, and he confirmed Mullen's version of events. Mullen claimed that he swerved to avoid the larger group of friends with whom Stacey had been travelling, but could not avoid hitting Stacey.

Due to the dispute in liability, the case was brought before the Belfast High Court. Mr Justice O'Hara heard the case. Evidence was presented by the forensic engineer and the police-who supported Mullen's testimony that he had been sober the night of the incident.

The judge supported Stacey's allegation that Mullen had been driving too quickly along the unlit road, and thus was acting irresponsibly in such conditions. He reduced her settlement from £110,000 to £44,000-a reduction of sixty percent due to her contributory negligence. He stated that "by walking in the middle of a dark, unlit road while drunk and incapable of being alert to traffic".