14 August 2020 | Comment | Article by Ciaran McCabe

More than just statistics: The individual stories of tragedy and loss behind our UK road crash numbers

National Road Victim Month is held every year in August to remember people who have been killed or injured on our roads.

I’ve been helping people whose lives have been affected by road crashes for many years and know all too well the devastation it can cause to individuals and their loved ones.

According to RoadPeace, a UK charity we work closely with, five people are killed every day and over 60 seriously injured. Each incident has its own unique and heart-breaking story and the impact can’t be fully understood by those unaffected.

I recently successfully concluded a claim for a gentleman who sustained both a brain and spinal cord injury while simply out walking his dog. The claimant was a successful businessman in his fifties, happily married and with 3 teenage sons.  

Little did he know that, when he left the house that morning, an out of control car driven by someone over the drink drive limit, after a party the night before, would mount the pavement and hit him -causing him life changing injuries and killing the family dog.

His wife became concerned when he failed to return home at the usual time. When she heard the wail of ambulance and police sirens, she called his mobile but there was no answer. She instinctively knew something was wrong and left the house with her eldest son to find out what had happened. When they reached the scene of the crash, the police had cordoned off the area – but they could see their beloved husband and father fighting for his life.

One moment had simply changed a family’s life forever.

The next few years were a huge struggle, through which I supported them as their solicitor. It was a roller coaster journey of emotion which had a profound effect on each member of the family. At the crash scene, the police informed the wife to travel to the hospital as soon as possible as her husband was unlikely to survive.

Following emergency surgery, the crash victim was in intensive care and in a coma. It was only 21 days later, after he came out of the coma, that the extent of his injuries became clear. He had suffered a spinal cord injury with paralysis in arms, hand, trunk and legs, with loss of control of bowels and bladder. He required complete assistance with daily living and a 24 hour a day specialist in personal care. Sadly, he had also sustained a brain injury, which affected his ability to manage his own finances and provide instructions to a solicitor himself.

As his solicitor, I was able to quickly obtain a period of intense private rehabilitation, which was funded by the insurers of the vehicle which had hit him. This early intervention helped him get the best recovery possible – although the injuries were clearly life-changing.

All of the family required counselling from a psychologist, to come to terms with what had happened. I remember taking a witness statement from the victim’s former Chief Executive about what he had achieved in his career - and what he could have potentially achieved. I recall talking to his friends about his love of playing cricket and, from his sons, about going to watch the football with their dad and their holiday adventures together. His wife simply missed the man she fell in love with and wished he could come back.

I may have made an enormous difference to the man’s life, and his family, through the settlement I negotiated. But, the fact remains that this whole family had their lives changed for the worse through the selfish actions of one individual who decided to risk driving the morning after drinking at a party and when clearly not fit to drive.

Yes, lives can be reconstructed and families can always love each other. But, when something is so easily avoidable, one has to question why the law isn’t more severe to reprimand those who wreak such destruction.

We work closely with RoadPeace, the UK charity for road crash victims, which provides information and support services to people bereaved or seriously injured in road crashes. It uses National Road Victim Month to raise awareness of the injustice that crash victims’ face - as well as remembering loved ones killed on the roads. This year, the charity is running a series of events, webinars and initiatives.

August was designated National Road Victim Month following the death of Princess Diana on 31st August 1997 and to commemorate the first death, of Bridget Driscoll, by a motor vehicle on 17 August 1896. According to RoadPeace, since Mrs Driscoll’s death, well over half a million people have been killed on the roads in Britain.

It’s a shocking number. But, these people are more than just statistics. As the recent case that I mention shows, each and every one of them are needless and senseless tragedies, with individual stories of loss and heartache.


Author bio

Ciaran specialises in assisting those who have suffered life changing injuries to the brain (adults and children) and spinal cord. He has also acted for those who have suffered amputation, severe orthopaedic and brachial plexus injuries.

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Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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