Truck driver seeks compensation after alleged collision. Company seeks compensation from same alleged incident.
Two separate cases were filed in relation to the same set of facts. For efficiency, the Judge heard the cases together and ruled on all issues in the same judgment.
The plaintiff in the first case was Mr Prince. Mr Prince was the sole director of a company, and a truck driver. He was driving Truck A.
The defendant in the first case, Mr Dunleavy, was driving Truck B, which had two trailers attached. Mr Dunleavy had stopped at a service station for a rest. He started driving the truck on to a slip road to re-enter the freeway. As the truck pulled on to the freeway, the front of Mr Prince’s truck hit the back of Mr Dunleavy’s trailer. Mr Prince’s company sued Mr Dunleavy.
The plaintiff in the second case was Mr Dunleavy’s employer. The company sued both drivers for the damage caused to the trailer.
The Judge had to decide which driver was responsible for causing the collision. The Judge considered the time of day (it was evening and dark), the speeds each vehicle was travelling at, what the law requires (which is set out in the Road Safety Rules) and what each driver could or should have done to avoid the collision (called a ‘duty of care’).
The Judge decided both drivers were responsible for causing the collision. Mr Dunleavy was responsible because the Road Safety Rules stated he was supposed to give way to oncoming traffic when changing lanes. This means if a car is behind you in the next lane and travelling at a speed, and you want to move into that lane, you have to let the other car pass by before you move into that lane, so Mr Dunleavy should have given way to Mr Prince. This was a breach of statute.
The Judge found Mr Prince was also responsible because he had seen Mr Dunleavy’s truck moving into the slip lane and he had time to move across one lane so Mr Dunleavy could enter the freeway safely. Even though this was not a statutory requirement, it was a courtesy to other drivers who are entering the freeway. This meant Mr Prince could have done something to avoid the collision. The Judge found he was negligent and had breached his duty of care.
The Judge apportioned (split) liability between the two drivers. He did this by referring to other cases that talk about splitting liability (precedents). Mr Dunleavy was two-thirds responsible, and Mr Prince was one-third responsible.
The Judge then looked at what Mr Prince’s company was claiming in damages and what Mr Dunleavy’s employer was claiming for damage to the trailer, and split that according to the responsibility allocation.