Case Studies

05 January 2023

Battens has recently achieved a five-figure compensation award for a husband and wife injured in a traumatic road traffic accident after a car left the road and crashed through the first-floor bedroom window of their house which led to the deaths of four young men who were occupants of the car.

The Claims

In the early hours of a morning in August 2020, as our clients were asleep in their beds, a teenage boy, carrying three of his teenage friends in a car, took the bend outside our clients’ home too fast which caused his vehicle to leave the road. The vehicle flew through the air and collided with our clients’ home at first floor level, shattering the glass of the window of the bedroom in which one of our clients was sleeping. The crash caused significant damage to the exterior of the house and to the garden below, where the car landed and caught fire.

One of our clients suffered a deterioration to his hearing along with serious psychological injury, the other suffered serious psychological injury following this traumatic event.

The evidence given at the inquest concluded that the teenage driver drove negligently, and that he had caused the collision. He was also found to be over the legal limit for alcohol and had been travelling at a speed well in excess of the legal limit and inappropriate for the road conditions.

Liability was admitted in the context of our clients’ separate claims for property damage, which were swiftly compromised. However, the driver’s motor insurers denied liability for our clients’ personal injury claims on the basis that they “did not qualify as Claimants in law”.

The Arguments

The Defendant’s stance was based on their rejection of our submission that our clients were primary victims of the actions taken by their insured driver. While the insurers accepted that the collision had woken our clients up and the aftermath had been distressing for them, they contended that neither of them had ever been at risk of physical harm, being on the first floor of the property and therefore not in immediate proximity to the vehicle when it crashed.

They also argued that the insured driver could not have foreseen that the manner of his driving could have placed the first-floor occupants of a roadside property at risk of physical harm. So therefore, he could not have been held liable for the injuries they went on to suffer and they should not be compensated. We argued that their denial of liability was fundamentally flawed.

There is a distinction in law between primary and secondary victims. A primary victim being a participant, or someone directly involved in an accident, and a secondary victim being a non-participant bystander or spectator.

There are essentially two types of primary victim – the first type suffers both physical and psychological injury. Having suffered hearing loss as well as psychological injury as a result of the accident, we submitted that our first client fell into this category, whereas our other client met the second criteria, which is where only psychological injury has been suffered. The Defendant should have reasonably foreseen that this could have happened because of his negligence.

We argued that the Defendant insurer had failed to appreciate the speed and intensity of the collision, and that the site of the collision was at the first-floor level of our clients’ house, where they were sleeping, as would not normally have been expected. Also, that the force of the impact and the subsequent fire had caused our first client to be physically shaken. the fitted wardrobes and radiator to detach from the walls, the room to fill with glass and the window blinds to be charred. If the clients were not exposed to danger of physical injury in the initial collision, then they certainly were in the immediate aftermath when there was a clear risk of the blazing car exploding. This risk was demonstrated by the urgency of by-passers who ensured our clients got out of the house and away from the property as quickly as possible. This latter action can only have been taken through fear of personal injury

The Outcome

Whilst the Defendant’s insurer never admitted liability, our persistence and legal expertise paid off with the Defendant agreeing to pay a five-figure sum to our clients between them in recompense for the injuries and losses they suffered, along with their legal costs.

For assistance with personal injury claims, please contact Kate Golding, Head of Battens Personal Injury Team. Tel 01935 846072 or email