David Knifton QC secures £1.2m settlement for brain-injured man struck by car whilst “playing chicken”

April 24, 2020

In a remarkable turnaround, a man who was advised by a leading London QC that his claim would fail has recovered a settlement of £1.2m, as a result of the advice of Exchange Chambers’ David Knifton QC and Lisa Gunner, serious injury solicitor at Thompsons’ Bristol and Cardiff offices.

The Claimant suffered a catastrophic brain injury when he was struck by the Defendant’s car in the early hours of a Sunday morning several years ago. A police investigation concluded that he was intoxicated, had been “playing chicken” by stepping in front of numerous vehicles, and had run into the path of the Defendant’s approaching car, which was travelling at 28-34mph.

Despite the advice initially obtained, Lisa Gunner’s instincts were that the claim had some merit. She commissioned an accident reconstruction report, which pointed out an error in the calculation of the Defendant’s speed by the police investigator. Following the instruction of David Knifton QC, a careful analysis of the available CCTV footage and a detailed review of the reconstruction expert’s report showed that the Defendant’s car had been travelling at around 48mph in a 30mph limit when it first encountered the Claimant’s group, significantly faster than other passing vehicles, and that it was doing around 43mph immediately before the collision. Despite being aware of the potential hazard posed by drunken pedestrians on the pavements on either side of the carriageway, the Defendant failed to reduce his speed, leading David to conclude that primary liability was likely to be established, albeit a substantial reduction for contributory negligence was inevitable.

Following the issue of proceedings, the Defendant’s solicitors obtained their own accident reconstruction evidence, which largely accepted the conclusions of the Claimant’s expert regarding the Defendant’s speed. Although liability remained strenuously denied, the Defendant agreed to attend a joint settlement meeting shortly before the trial was listed, at which David successfully negotiated a settlement of £1.2m, representing around 40% of the likely value of the claim. The award was this week approved by the High Court in Bristol, HHJ Cotter QC observing that “a moment of high spirits can have devastating consequences”.

Commenting on the outcome, David Knifton QC said: “I am delighted that we have been able to secure a life-changing settlement for this young man. This case highlights the importance of carefully analysing the evidence and of thorough preparation. Without Lisa’s determination, the client would have accepted the original advice that he had no case. We were able to turn an unpromising case into one where the Defendant faced a risk of having to pay far greater damages. This settlement will provide our client with much-needed rehabilitation to overcome some of the devastating consequences of his injury, and will enable him and his family to look forward to a more secure future.”