Chance does not discriminate and many fruitful lives are wrecked by road accidents. That was certainly so in a case where the autumn years of a distinguished academic were blighted by a brain injury suffered in a collision.
A long-time magistrate, the man, in his 80s, had lived an impressive life, contributing to the academic world and society as a whole. He was passionate about football and the arts and continued to lead a full and active life with his wife of over 40 years until they were both gravely injured in the accident.
Following a visit to their granddaughter, he was driving on a motorway when a heavy lorry approached to within 17 metres of the rear of his car. Unable to move into the fast lane, he braked hard and the lorry collided with the back of his vehicle at speed. He suffered a moderate to severe brain injury and his wife was rendered paraplegic.
His capacity to manage his own affairs fluctuates. He is sometimes able to make decisions for himself, but at other times has to rely on his son's exercise of a power of attorney. Although not formally a protected party, he is highly vulnerable and at risk of falling prey to disreputable approaches for money. Looked after by a team of carers, 24 hours a day, the couple live on the ground floor of their longstanding family home.
The man's case was replete with legal difficulties: the intermingling of his and his wife's care regimes made it hard to put a value on his individual claim; there were contentious issues concerning accommodation costs; and the lorry driver's insurers contended that the man's disabilities were largely, if not entirely, a result of pre-existing health problems.
Following negotiations, however, the insurers accepted 75 per cent liability for the accident and agreed to pay him a lump sum of £375,000. The High Court was content to approve the settlement. Both sides expressed confidence that the wife's damages claim in respect of the accident would also be settled in due course.