Rescuer wins compensation claim
In 2006 David Tolley was travelling south on the M53 when a vehicle overtook him and lost control. Mr Tolley stopped to assist the driver. However, while doing so he noted that there was another car stationary in the fast lane on the northbound side of the motorway. Realising the danger this presented, Mr Tolley crossed to the central reservation to assist the female driver from her car.
Having rescued the driver, David Tolley was aware that there was a serious risk of other vehicles colliding with the stationary vehicle. He therefore decided to try and remove the car to prevent an accident occurring. Unfortunately, as Mr Tolley was entering the vehicle to remove it, the car was struck by two vehicles. The force of the impact threw Mr Tolley along the motorway causing him to sustain very serious personal injuries. Amongst his injuries were a broken back, punctured lungs and a number of serious fractures. He was hospitalised for several months and is permanently paralysed.
There were three insurance companies involved in defending the personal injury claim brought by Mr Tolley. The insurers argued that he should accept some element of contributory negligence. It was argued that Mr Tolley’s actions were foolhardy and that he should accept a reduction in the value of his accident claim of anything up to one third of his compensation.
Mr Tolley did not accept this argument. Accordingly, the claim proceeded to trial and became the first recorded case involving a challenge by an insurance company to a personal injury claim brought by a “rescuer”
The judge commended Mr Tolley for his actions as a rescuer, stating that “exceptional bravery is not foolhardiness.” The Court rejected the argument of contributory negligence put forward by the insurance companies and ruled that Mr Tolley did not have to accept any reduction in his damages as a result of his actions. Mr Tolley will therefore now be entitled to receive the full amount of the compensation that is awarded to him for the injuries he suffered in the accident.