Man awarded €52,000 over three-car collision on M7

Road and Guardrail

4 November 2021

A man has been awarded more than €52,000 by the High Court over an accident involving three cars on the M7 motorway more than four years ago.

John Ryan, Rydane Skule, Fedamore, Co Limerick, claimed his car was hit when a car, driven by Patrick O’Sullivan, was overtaking him, went into a wobble and lost control near the junction for the Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall, Co Offaly on May 13th, 2017.

He claimed Mr O’Sullivan’s car came over into his lane and a collision occurred in that lane.

Mr O’Sullivan and his wife Fionnula, who was also a defendant in the case, denied the claims. Mr O’Sullivan said that while overtaking Mr Ryan he suddenly felt a bang on the rear passenger side which was caused by the other car veering into his lane.

The court heard Mr O’Sullivan’s car also hit a car which was stationary in the hard shoulder after a breakdown.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr found Mr Ryan’s version of the accident was the true account and he awarded Mr Ryan €52,869 against Mr O’Sullivan, of Glenvale, Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny, as the driver, and also against his wife Fionnuala as owner.

The judge said the court could not ignore the fact that Mr O’Sullivan made two statements to the gardaí­, one a verbal statement at the scene of the accident and a second formal written statement some days later, in which he stated he had “hit the brakes” and had lost control of his vehicle.

While Mr O’Sullivan attempted to distance himself from these statements by alleging that he was in shock in the immediate aftermath of the accident and in the days thereafter, the court did not think that this was “a sufficient excuse for giving an account of the accident that is so inconsistent with his version of the accident some years later at the trial of the action”.

The court well understood that in the immediate aftermath of a multi-vehicle collision, a party may well be mistaken in relation to certain aspects of the accident.

“However, that does not mean that a party would take responsibility for the accident and effectively admit that his vehicle went out of control, but leave out the most important point, being that he allegedly lost control of his vehicle due to being struck by another vehicle.”.

While Mr O’Sullivan may have omitted to give the correct version at the scene of the accident, it was “stretching credibility” to say that he was still in shock at when he gave his detailed written statement four days after the accident.

It also had to be noted that while he was injured in the accident, Mr O’Sullivan only suffered a sprained ankle.

The court was of the view that on the balance of probability this accident occurred because Mr O’Sullivan was impatient with the speed at which Mr Ryan was travelling at the time.

Mr O’Sullivan elected, in spite of the inclement weather conditions and perhaps not knowing that the road was very dangerous when it had excess surface water on it, to undertake the overtaking manoeuvre, he said. Possibly due to the level of spray that was being emitted from the wheels of the Ryan car, he may have been blinded by excess water coming onto the windscreen and for that reason he braked.

“That had disastrous consequences due to the speed at which he was travelling and due to the presence of excess water on the surface of the road.”

The court heard Mr Ryan suffered multiple soft tissue injuries to his neck, upper back and shoulder and bruising to his knees all of which caused him considerable pain.

He also suffered from flashbacks and anxiety when driving among other things.

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