Belfast Telegraph

Drunk pedestrian who suffered brain injury after being hit by a car receives £44k in damages, court hears

By Alan Erwin

A drunk pedestrian who suffered a brain injury after being hit by a car in the middle of the road is to receive £44,000 in damages, a High Court judge has ruled.

Stacey McCaughey's £110,000 pay-out was cut by 60% because her own negligence was held to have contributed to the accident on a night out.

Mr Justice O'Hara said: "She failed to look after her own safety by walking in the middle of a dark, unlit road while drunk and incapable of being alert to traffic."

Ms McCaughey, 24, was struck by an oncoming car as she and a group of friends walked along the Carrickmannon Road towards Ballygowan, Co Down at around 1.40am on September 26, 2010.

She had been drinking at the nearby Chestnut Inn and has no recollection of what happened.

According to engineering experts motorist Brian Mullan probably collided with her as he tried to swerve the avoid the pedestrians, resulting in her being thrown over his car.

She spent four days in intensive care, requiring treatment for a left frontal lobe contusion with subsequent headaches.

Fractures, a spinal injury and facial and head scarring were also sustained.

Since the accident Ms McCaughey has been convicted of perverting the course of justice in connection with a murder investigation.

She sued Mr Mullan for allegedly causing her injuries by driving too fast on the night of the accident.

He had been completely sober and was returning from picking up friends in Belfast.

Mr Mullan told the court how he saw the plaintiff and others strung across the road in front of him and swerved as quickly as possible in a bid to avoid them.

Despite describing the defendant as an honest witness, the judge found him liable due to driving too fast in the circumstances.

"It matters little whether she was a drunk woman in the middle of the road, an old lady crossing the road or a driver changing a flat tyre," he said. 

"The onus is on the oncoming driver to follow the Highway Code by stopping in time to avoid any obstruction on the road ahead."

Mr Justice O'Hara noted how Ms McCaughey has suffered headaches, mood upsets and memory disturbance. 

She has a significantly increased lifetime risk of developing post-traumatic epilepsy as a result of her severe traumatic brain injury.

The court also heard how Ms McCaughey, with an address at Blenheim Drive in Newtownards, was involved in an unrelated criminal prosecution after the accident which resulted in her being convicted of perverting the course of justice in a murder investigation.

Her conviction is understood to be connected to inquiries into the shooting of Comber man Phillip Strickland in January 2012.

According to Mr Justice O'Hara she has made a "remarkable" recovery given the severity of the accident.

"It is to her credit that at a difficult time economically she found two jobs and worked for more than a year in them," he said.

However, he stressed that she had been a road user with responsibilities to herself as well as others, including the defendant and his passengers.

The judge confirmed: "In all these circumstances I assess the plaintiff's general damages at £110,000.

"On the basis of her contributory fault I award her £44,000, with 2% interest from the date on which the writ was issued."

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