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Loose surfboard causes broken neck in serious road accident

We recently acted for a man who suffered serious injuries when his car was hit by a surfboard which had come loose from another vehicle, causing a multiple pile-up on the A361. His passenger was his sister, whom he was taking back to the airport for her flight back to Canada, where she lived. She too was injured.

It was quite clear from the police investigation that our client had done nothing wrong. The question was whether the driver of the car which had been carrying the surf board was liable for the accident. Initially, that certainly seemed to be the case - and we took the view that it was up to his insurers to show how the surfboard came to fall off his vehicle without him being negligent. If they could not do that, the law would say that he must have been to blame. In other words, properly secured surfboards being carried on vehicles do not fall off and cause mayhem in the absence of some negligence somewhere by the vehicle driver.

Our client had suffered a broken neck, requiring prolonged surgery and rehabilitation. Fortunately, he escaped any paralysis, but he was left with quite significant and permanent limitation of movement in his neck, frequent pain, and suffered depression and stress from the extent of his injury and prolonged period of treatment. He retained his job as a fire and safety engineer, but was unlikely to be able to continue the work until his expected retirement age, because of his continuing symptoms. So the claim had to take account of the loss of pay he was likely to incur in the future, if he was forced to take early retirement.

After we had started dealing with his case some worrying evidence came to light. There was a suggestion from the other driver’s insurers that the surfboard had only come off because the carrier being used had broken. The driver had bought that carrier in good faith, secondhand, and it had seemed perfectly suitable. He had fixed it on the vehicle correctly and felt that there was nothing more that he could reasonably have done. Consequently it began to look as if the carrier had failed because of some latent defect in its structure, which could not have been discovered by the average user.

Had the carrier been bought new from a reputable shop, the driver’s insurers could have passed the compensation claim “down the line” by claiming their outlay back from that shop’s insurers - but the general rule of law when buying something secondhand from an individual, is that you take things as you find them.

That was a serious concern for our client, because if the other driver had not done anything wrong, and if he had no way of knowing that the carrier was about to fail, then legally he would not be responsible for our client’s serious injuries. So, there was a real risk developing that the whole claim might fail completely.

We therefore took a very firm line in negotiations with the insurers, putting the onus on the other driver for failing to ensure that the surfboard was secure. We are pleased to report that this succeeded and were able to achieve an out of court settlement for our client on very favourable terms.

If you have suffered injury in a road accident then call us for a FREE case assessment on 0808 139 1606 or drop us an email with the details.

Head Injury Compensation

If you or someone close to you has suffered a head injury and you need some help about what to do, with no pressure and entirely free of charge, please ring or email the leader of our head injury team, Mike Clarke.

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