Personal injury sheriff orders Lanarkshire man to pay over £50,000 to driver of car hit by trailer on bend

A sheriff has ordered the insurer of a man whose trailer collided with a car on a road in Lanarkshire to pay over £50,000 to the driver of the car after he was found to be in breach of his common law duty of care.

The action against Robbie Tough and his insurer, NFU Mutual Ltd, was raised by Martin McKee after a collision on Maudslie Road in Carluke. Mr McKee contended that the first defender had negligently allowed his trailer to enter the opposite lane while navigating a bend in the road and this was the sole cause of the accident.

The case was heard by Sheriff Christopher Dickson in the All-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court. Pilkington, advocate, appeared for the pursuer and Macpherson, advocate, for both defenders.

Across the centre line

The accident occurred at around 19:20 on Friday 13 May 2016. The first defender had been driving his Toyota Hilux truck with an attached trailer, 2.3 metres in width, in the direction of Carluke Golf Club. As the first defender was taking a sweeping right-hand bend on a gradual downhill gradient, the pursuer’s car took the bend from the opposite direction. The trailer, the offside wheels of which were fully across the centre line, collided with the front of the pursuer’s Audi.

Following the collision, the pursuer lost control of his car and struck a Hyundai that had been travelling behind the first defender. As a result of both collisions the pursuer suffered permanent loss of bone in his upper jaw, loss of teeth, and other injuries. The entire front end of the Audi was damaged, and its front offside tyre deflated.

The pursuer contended that the defender had been attempting to overtake the car that was behind him at the time of the accident, a point which the defender denied. The pursuer denied a submission by the defender that he had been travelling in excess of 60 miles per hour when approaching the bend and that this had been a factor in the accident.

It was submitted that the first defender’s failure to prevent the trailer from crossing into the opposite lane of the road was a breach of his common law duty to take reasonable care to prevent harm to the pursuer and damage to his property. The defenders submitted that the pursuer had not proven his case on record, or alternatively sought a finding of contributory negligence due to his speed.

Probable consequence

In his decision, Sheriff Dickson said of the pursuer’s common law case: “I considered that [the first defender’s] driving was a clear contravention of Rule 160 of the Highway Code. I considered that it would have been apparent to an ordinary reasonable driver in position of the first defender that a reasonable and probable consequence of his failure to prevent the trailer from entering the westbound lane to a significant degree would be harm to the pursuer.

He continued: “In the circumstances, a reasonably competent driver exercising reasonable care would not have failed to prevent the trailer from entering the westbound lane to a significant degree. As such, I considered that the first defender had fallen below the standard of care required of him and had breached the duty of care he owed to the pursuer.”

Finding that on a balance of probabilities the accident was caused by the first defender, he assessed contributory negligence as follows: “The pursuer was driving significantly in excess of the 60mph speed limit immediately before the first collision. In my view the speed that the pursuer was travelling at resulted in his reaction time being reduced. If he had been travelling at or below the speed limit he may have been able to take action to avoid a collision with the trailer.”

The sheriff concluded: “The fact that the pursuer was travelling significantly in excess of the speed limited was not an insignificant contributory factor to the first collision. In all the circumstances, after having regard to the pursuer’s share in the responsibility for the damage he suffered, I considered that a just and equitable reduction was 25%.”

Having found the first defender to be in breach of his common law duties, Sheriff Dickson found the defenders liable to make reparations to the pursuer. Quantum was agreed at £69,629.30, reduced to £52,221.98 for contributory negligence, with a further £3,645.98 of interest to the date of decree.

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