Accidents Whilst Drunk

If people suffer an accident whilst they are drunk the fact that they are in an inebriated condition at the time of the accident does not prevent them from later on making an accident compensation claim.

An insurance company of a business or a motor insurance company of a car driver may attempt to argue that because the accident victim was intoxicated at the time that he or she suffered the accident then they cannot make a compensation claim. However, the courts when deciding accident compensation claims do not consider this to be correct law and will always look at all of the facts relating to the circumstances of the accident before deciding whether an accident victim is entitled to compensation for the personal injuries sustained in the accident.

Stephen Lightfoot was unfortunately knocked down by a bus whilst he was walking to a friend’s house. It was a dark autumn evening and the country road did not have street lights. Before the time of the accident Mr Lightfoot had been seen by a number of people in a drunken condition, staggering whilst walking and slurring his words when talking.

The bus company had contested the compensation claim made by Mr Lightfoot.

The court when reviewing the reasons why the accident occurred rejected any argument that the accident was unavoidable because of the intoxicated condition of Mr Lightfoot. The court looked at the cctv footage from the bus and also the records made by the police who attended the accident and interviewed the bus driver.

It appeared that the accident happened because Mr Lightfoot had walked diagonally across the road in an attempt to flag down the bus because he was not stood waiting at the bus stop. Unfortunately, the bus driver had not switched on the main beam lights of the bus that would have helped him see further along the road.  In addition, the cameras on the bus showed that the driver was not paying attention to the road ahead whilst he was driving along and instead he was reading a bus timetable sheet to check that he was not travelling ahead of schedule.

The court decided that if the bus driver had been paying attention he would have seen Mr Lightfoot walking in the road and the bus driver had time to stop the bus and avoid knocking him down. Regrettably, the bus driver did not see Mr Lightfoot until it was too late and the bus hit him causing severe injuries.

A split liability decision was made by the court, on the basis that the bus driver was 60% responsible for the accident occurring and Mr Lightfoot 40% responsible. The practical effect of this judgment was that Mr Lightfoot was awarded compensation for the personal injuries and financial losses caused by the accident, however the insurance company of the bus company retained 40% of the compensation and Mr Lightfoot was actually paid only 60% of the total compensation.

The High Court’s decision in Lightfoot v Go-Ahead Group plc