Did the judge get it wrong in the recent case of a woman whose personal injury claim was dismissed due to lack of a collision? In my humble opinion, I would venture to say yes.
The plaintiff in question alleged that she sustained injuries when she was compelled to brake abruptly on a motorway to avoid crashing into the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant’s car, it is worth noting, had just had an accident with another vehicle and had veered into the plaintiff’s lane. Intriguingly, despite the circumstances, there was no actual collision between the plaintiff’s vehicle and the defendant’s vehicle.
The Irish Times reported that upon hearing the evidence presented in the case, the judge called upon both legal teams to undertake extensive research to determine whether there was any legal basis for such a claim in law. The legal teams, much to everyone’s surprise, reported that they were unable to identify any Irish case law that allowed a plaintiff to successfully demonstrate entitlement to damages where no collision had taken place. Consequently, the judge decided to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim and awarded legal costs against her.
However, there is a Supreme Court case that appears to contradict this line of thinking: Cawley v Foley  IESC 102. In this case, similar to the recent one, there was no collision. The plaintiff had been driving behind the defendants when an object fell from the defendants’ car. This caused the plaintiff to brake suddenly and, she claimed, due to this unexpected manoeuvre, she was injured.
The High Court agreed with the plaintiff’s argument, stating that she had indeed needed to brake suddenly when the object fell out in front of her, and had suffered injuries as a result. The Supreme Court, hearing an appeal on the case, chose not to interfere with this finding, and damages were awarded to the plaintiff.
In light of the findings in Cawley v Foley, the ‘no collision, no claim’ ruling seems to be a bit of a stretch. It suggests a narrow interpretation of the law that could potentially dismiss the legitimate claims of individuals who suffer injuries due to the negligence or recklessness of others on the road, even in the absence of a collision.
It’s worth noting that this recent ruling may have implications for how personal injury claims are assessed in the future. If ‘no collision, no claim’ becomes a prevailing precedent, it could arguably create an unjust barrier for those seeking compensation for injuries sustained in near-miss incidents. Perhaps it’s time for a more nuanced understanding of these complex situations in our courts.