A collision on the expressway is always a distressing event for all parties. Even if one manages to escape significant bodily harm, there is still the matter of legal responsibility and insurance claims. While most such expressway collisions occur between vehicles, the case of Tan You Cheng v Ng Kok Hin involves an exceptional accident in which a moving vehicle collided with a pedestrian on the expressway.
In this case, the Plaintiff had been standing on the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) in the early hours of the morning when the Defendant’s car collided into him. The Plaintiff sued the Defendant for negligence, and the Defendant pleaded guilty. However, in his plea of guilt, the Defendant maintained that the Plaintiff had been contributorily negligent, and he had not hit the Plaintiff because of his failure to pay due care and attention, or keeping a proper lookout. After an examination of the facts of the case, the High Court held that the Plaintiff was to bear 80% liability, whilst the Defendant was to bear 20% liability. This was decided based on the relative responsibility of the Plaintiff and the Defendant for the accident in terms of causation and blameworthiness.
Notably, the 20% liability borne by the Defendant was established because the High Court observed that had the Defendant not been sleepy and been keeping a proper lookout, he might have noticed the goods and lorry earlier, reacting sooner to give the obstructions a wider berth, and thus avoiding collision with the Plaintiff.
The significant portion of the liability being attributed to the Plaintiff can be explained by the Plaintiff’s violations of the Road Traffic Rules, and the Road Traffic (Expressway Traffic) Rules.
Rule 18 of the Road Traffic Rules provides that “the load on any vehicle on a road shall be secured by ropes or other proper material” if necessary to prevent it from falling out.
Rule 6 of the Road Traffic (Expressway Traffic) Rules provides that in a scenario where the load falls off a vehicle, “the vehicle should be driven to the shoulder or verge on the left or near side of the vehicle”, such that “no part of it or any load obstructs” the road.
The Plaintiff had failed to do either of these. The High Court found that should the Plaintiff have ensured that the goods were properly secured, the accident would not have occurred in the first place. Furthermore, the Plaintiff had stopped the lorry and in lane 3 for quite some time (15-30 minutes) with the goods strewn behind it. The lorry and goods strewn across lane 3 actually contributed to the accident by causing the Defendant to take evasive manoeuvres, moving into lane 2 where the Plaintiff was standing. In such a situation, the Plaintiff should have set up a warning sign or asked his partner to alert oncoming traffic/watch out for safety while he retrieves the goods as quickly as possible.
Accidents on the road are no small matter. When both parties are at fault for causing an accident, the Court shall apportion liability accordingly. Remember to always abide by the Road Traffic Rules, and drive carefully if you do not wish to be found to be contributorily negligent in an accident.
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