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A good lawyer will not only give reliable and well-informed advice but will also bring professional negotiating skills to bear, as was illustrated by a case in which a seriously injured road accident victim won the right to substantial compensation despite claims that he was not wearing a seatbelt at the time.
The teenager suffered a severe brain injury when a car in which he was a passenger skidded on a bend and collided with a tree. He was in a coma for almost a month but made such a remarkable recovery that he was able to return to school a year later. His intellect was nevertheless blunted. As a result, his earning capacity is reduced and he will need care and assistance for the rest of his life.
He brought a personal injury claim against the driver's motor insurers, but was met by claims that he was in part responsible for his own injuries because he was not wearing a seatbelt when the accident happened. A finding to that effect would normally have resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in his damages award.
Expert witnesses were divided as to whether he had put on his seatbelt and whether that would in fact have made any difference to his injuries. However, the teenager's legal team negotiated a settlement whereby the insurance company agreed to compensate him on the basis of 85 per cent liability.
Noting that the settlement had done away with the need for a trial of the case, and all the anxiety and expense that would have entailed, the High Court approved the settlement on the issue of liability as appropriate and realistic. The amount of the man's compensation will be assessed at a later date.