The parents of a teenage girl left brain damaged by a speeding motorist are facing a £500,000 care bill after an insurance giant argued SHE was partly to blame.
Churchill said 13 year-old Bethany Probert shared some responsibility because she should have been wearing a high-visibility jacket as she walked down a dark lane. They successfully challenged a High Court judge’s ruling that motorist Paul Moore was 100 per cent liable after he mowed down the youngster in December 2009. Bethany, a keen rider, was walking home after tending her horse Troy in stables nr Silverstone, Northants. Mr. Moore knocked her into a hedge with his Saab 93, leaving her with lung damage and devastating head injuries which caused permanent brain damage. Bethany, now 17, has been left with limited walking ability, depression and a lack of concentration or spatial awareness. Unable to afford the costs of her life-long care, her parents Joanna and Robert sued Mr. Moore and his insurers Churchill. In August 2012 the High Court ordered Churchill to pay £5 million compensation and a judge cleared Bethany of any contributory negligence. The court heard that fitter Mr. Moore had been doing around 50mph which the judge said was too fast for such a road in darkness.
But Churchill appealed in a test case to decide to what extent children can be held responsible for their injuries in road accidents. They claimed that Bethany was partly to blame because as a horse rider she should know she should have worn a high-visibility jacket in the gloom. They have now offered to pay 90 per cent of the compensation – leaving Bethany’s devastated parents to find the remaining half million pounds for her care. They fear that Bethany will face three days a month without any form of full-time care if they can’t find the funds.
The couple said they have no option but accept the offer because they fear being left with nothing if they appeal and lose. Joanna, 51, said: “As a mother I hate the idea of having to accept any responsibility to Bethany for the accident. “Deciding to give in and accept Churchill’s offer of 90/10 was such a difficult decision. “They are a company and their aim is to make profit but I think their tactics are horrible. “I couldn’t afford to gamble with my daughter’s future but the insurance company obviously can. “I felt forced to settle and even though I didn’t see how they could possibly win at appeal, the risk was just too worrying. “It is ludicrous they even decided to appeal in the first place – you would think a High Court judge’s decision would be final but apparently it’s not. “I’ve tried to explain to her that we are only taking the 10 per cent to reduce the risk, but she now thinks she was at fault again.” Joanna and Robert, 51, are now rebuilding their home to adapt to their daughter’s needs and find space for the specialist equipment and a support worker. Joanna added: “We’ve had enough to contend with without four years of legal work. “The relief to get 100 per cent was incredible but then when they appealed and it all started again I just cried and cried.” The settlement means that Bethany’s parents will be forced to pay for some of the care she needs over her life. Joanna added: “When she is your daughter you don’t want to see her go without, it is awful, I just want it all to be over. “I will only get enough to cover 90 per cent of what she needs, and working that out over a month, it means she will miss three days of care a month. “Of course I will always be there to look after her and take up those days, but what happens when I’m no longer here? “It’s horrible trying to work out what to cut back on to prepare for that, I want her to have everything she needs, always.
Bethany’s solicitor Richard Langton, from Slater & Gordon, said: “Churchill have probably saved about half a million pounds. “If she needs care every day of her life then every year she is going to lose 36 days of care. “Everything is costed very, very precisely so Bethany is going to go days where she has no full-time care. “If you are half a million pound short of what you need then you are going to go wanting.” He added: “Insurers have deep pockets and they can afford to make numerous settlement offers, but for Bethany and her family losing any more of her damages would be a disaster. “It’s not too late for Churchill to listen to the High Court decision and compensate Bethany in full.” Churchill said: “The law is clear that the level of compensation must reflect the facts and circumstances of each case. “In the case of Bethany Probert, we have already accepted that our insured driver was largely responsible for this accident, and the appeal hearing will not alter this fact. “We also recognise how vital it is that payments are made promptly to ensure people get the care they need. “In Bethany’s case, we made an initial payment for rehabilitation and care, followed by further interim payments.” The Churchill spokesperson added: “Churchill has accepted that its insured driver was largely to blame for the accident, but we did not accept was that our driver was 100 per cent liable. “We are pleased to have now reached an agreement by consent from both parties, subject to court approval. “Churchill has already paid almost £1m to Miss Probert to continue to help her rebuild her life and will continue to work with her legal advisers to agree how much compensation should be paid in final settlement of her claim.”
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