Claimant "nowhere near" proving causation

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30 September, 2020

Forbes have successfully defended a highways tripping claim on causation grounds.

The claim arose as a result of an alleged accident on Christmas Eve 2015. The Claimant's case was that he had been out training with a friend in readiness for the start of his army career in January 2016. He claimed he was caused to trip due to a pothole on the footway resulting in a serious injury to his left knee. The injury was sufficiently serious to end his army career before it started. His friend was running ahead so did not witness the accident but was on scene in the immediate aftermath and shared the Claimant's view that the pothole had caused the accident.

Breach of duty was conceded pre-action.

Given the potential value of the claim, given the future losses arising from the loss of his army career, the Court chose to deal with this matter on a split basis with the issue of causation to be addressed in the first place.

There were a number of red flags regarding causation identified at the outset of Forbes' involvement in conjunction with the Council.

  • Inconsistencies within the Claimant's evidence as to whether he was walking, jogging or running when the accident occurred. He attempted to explain in cross-examination that he was doing interval training at the time so doing all three at some point.
  • Doubts as to when he first sought medical treatment post-accident. The CNF suggested he attended A&E but he later stated he attended a local walk-in centre. There was no record whatsoever of his attendance at either.
  • The first contemporaneous note of the accident was within his army medical records on 6th January 2016 when two army officers noted independently of each other that the Claimant reported he had slipped on wet ground with no mention of a trip.
  • The Claimant had pursued a previous claim against the Council for a left knee injury, yet he denied any previous accidents or similar injuries to the medical expert.

At trial, the Claimant was subjected to robust cross-examination. The Judge found him to be a poor witness and preferred the contemporaneous account of the accident recorded by the army officers. She concluded the claimant had come nowhere near establishing causation on the balance of probabilities and dismissed his claim.

Forbes Comment

Forbes were delighted with the outcome. This was an example of how each individual inconsistency alone may not have been sufficient but collectively they proved fatal to the Claimant's case. Even with the support of his friend, he was unable to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities that the cause of his fall was the pothole.

For more information contact Sarah Davisworth in our Insurance department via email or phone on 0113 386 2688. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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