Background to this car accident claim.
We recently acted on behalf of a driver in relation to a road traffic accident whereby he was rear ended while stationary at traffic lights. The driver and his passenger felt immediate neck and back pain. The Gardai were called and the Dublin Fire Brigade arrived a short time later, followed by an Ambulance.
Upon arrival at the scene a member of the Dublin Fire Brigade established the type of injuries both parties were suffering from. The Officer from the Fire Brigade made an executive decision that it was necessary to remove the roof of the vehicle in order to ensure all the necessary precautions were taken. The driver of the vehicle was very unhappy about this decision and queried whether there was any alternative available however he was advised that as he had a “suspected spinal injury it was the safest and wisest way to ensure their safe extrication from the vehicle. Priority of care is for you and your passenger and not your vehicle.”
Road Traffic Procedures in relation to a road traffic accident are covered under the Fire Services Act, 1981 Part 111 section 28 subsection (1) which provides “The person in control at a fire or other emergency may either personally or by a member of the Gardai Siochana or by such other person as he authorises do (if necessary, by force) all such things as are in his opinion necessary or expedient for the purpose of extinguishing the fire or for protecting or rescuing persons or property”.
In the course of this case we were further advised by the Dublin Fire Brigade as follows:-
“The Dublin Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service operate under the guidelines of the Pre-hospital Emergency Care Council in relation to extrication decisions for patients. This states that patients with life threatening injuries should be rapidly extricated whereas stable patients should be fully mobilised and treated with a high index of suspicion for spinal injury.
If any patient sustains an injury where the pre-hospital care practitioner suspects that there may be a spinal injury, then the patient should be fully mobilised and extricated using at least a collar and spinal board. The officer and crew from the Fire Brigade may decide that safe extrication of the patient may warrant chocking (stabilising) the vehicle and removing the patient from the vehicle to aid with extrication, keeping in mind that greater than two millimetres of inappropriate movement to a patient with possible spinal injuries may cause further damage. Such decisions are undertaken by experienced officers at the scene of the incident and all of the crews are fully trained in extrication techniques.
Please understand that priority care is for the patient and not the vehicle”
After receiving the Garda Abstract Report and statements from each of the parties involved in this case it was apparent that the accident did in fact occur in the manner claimed however the defendant would not admit liability for the accident. This left us with no doubt that the main aspect of this claim was whether it was necessary to remove the roof of the vehicle and whether it was the responsibility of the defendants to cover the full cost of the vehicle i.e. could they be held responsible for the full value of the loss of the car bearing in mind the initial impact was not serious but would not have rendered the vehicle a “write off”?
The Defendants defended the case in full and as we awaited a Judge to be assigned for the Trial of the action they approached us with regard to settling the case. The case ultimately settled after several hours of tough negotiations.
The end result was that the defendants paid for the cost of the vehicle in full and whilst this case will not set any precedent in Irish Law it does however possibly open the flood gates for any similar type of accident or circumstances where the Fire Brigade are simply doing their job and protecting the health and safety of persons in road traffic accidents.
If you have any queries regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact Martina Rowley of our office on 01-4214226 at any stag