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Strict safety procedures protect business against negligence claim

A waste management driver involved in a vehicle accident lost a claim for damages against his employer last month.

The JJ Richards worker suffered injuries when the vehicle he was driving rolled down an embankment. He alleged the accident happened after a defective front tyre blew, causing him to lose control of the vehicle.

However, his claim that the employer had neglected to maintain its vehicle properly was rejected.

Independent specialist

In evidence, the company tendered that it used an independent tyre specialist to inspect its vehicles daily, and any tyres that showed signs of wear or defects were repaired or replaced.

This was in addition to the company conducting its own regular inspections and repairs, and seeing that its drivers checked the condition of tyres before starting their shifts.

The Judge stated: “There is no evidence as to how the rapid deflation of the tyre could have been prevented, or the risk of it reduced, by any additional maintenance”.

“[T]he system of maintenance and repair in place exceeded that which a reasonable person… would have implemented.”

“I find…no fault or breach of duty of care by the defendant,” the Judge said.

The worker also made an alternative claim under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 that the incident was a “blameless accident”. This, too, was rejected.

At the trial, the worker maintained he heard a loud shotgun-like sound before the tyre deflated and he lost control of the vehicle. However, this wasn’t mentioned in any of the statements he made shortly after the accident which took place in 2012.

There was also no evidence the driver had hit a pothole or other object, or of the tyre valve failing.

The Judge found “[O]n the balance of probabilities, that the cause of the truck leaving the road was the manner in which it was driven by the plaintiff. This finding is made in the absence of any other reasonable or rational evidence as to the course of the accident.”

“I find that the sole cause of the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries was his failure to properly steer or control the vehicle at a safe speed around the right-hand bend.”

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