Earlier this year Judge Mahoney of the District Court reduced an award of damages of $1.57m by 25% because the injured passenger was not wearing a seat belt and got into a car with a person he knew or ought to have known was under the influence of alcohol.
The case of Vance v Chambers  NSW DC 79 involved two friends who, after fishing and consuming alcohol together drove along a beach at Sandon River, just south of Yamba. The vehicle hit a ‘washout‘ on the beach and as a result the car being driven by the defendant rolled. The plaintiff was ejected from the car as he was not wearing a seat belt and suffered a number of injuries that included severe chest injuries, rib fractures, fractured skull, liver laceration and vertebral fracture.
The plaintiff was thrown from the car and knocked unconscious, only to be woken by a wave washing over him.
Such was the seriousness of the injuries that he was in hospital for 31 days.
The judge assessed the plaintiff’s loss and damages at $1,577,670. This was made up of general damages, past and future economic loss, domestic assistance as well as medical expenses.
The award however was reduced by 25% because of contributory negligence which meant that the award was reduced from $1,577,670 to $1,183,250. This was as a result of the plaintiff getting into a vehicle that he knew or ought to have known was being driven by an intoxicated driver and he was not wearing a seat belt.
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