It is often impossible to discern with absolute certainty the cause of road accidents that occur in the twinkling of an eye. As a case concerning a couple who were injured in the back of a taxi showed, however, judges are well versed at seeing where the probabilities lie.
After the couple lodged personal injury claims, it was undisputed that they fell from their seats during the taxi ride. What was contentious, however, was the cause of them doing so. They asserted that, without warning, the driver slammed on his brakes at a roundabout. He was adamant that he braked in a perfectly smooth and normal manner.
In upholding the couple's claims, a judge noted that passengers do not end up on the floor of a taxi unless something has gone wrong. The driver had provided no plausible explanation as to how they came to be injured. The inherent probability was that he left it too late to brake safely after another vehicle crossed his path.
Although the driver bore primary responsibility for the accident, the judge ruled that the couple's damages awards should be reduced by 25 per cent to reflect the fact that they were not wearing seatbelts. The ruling entitled each of them to thousands of pounds in compensation for their pain, suffering, loss of amenity and financial losses. It was left to lawyers on both sides precisely to calculate the sums due to the couple in the light of the judge's ruling.