Man who lied about wearing seatbelt has damages slashed by 20%


Cutting damages awarded to an injured car salesman found to have lied about wearing a seatbelt in a road crash should act to stop other dishonest litigants, a High Court judge said yesterday.

Mr Justice Gillen deducted 20 per cent from Anthony Hazlett’s £85,500 payout for the contributory negligence of not being strapped in.

He also ruled that the defendant was entitled to claim the costs of calling an accident reconstruction expert whose evidence helped establish no seatbelt was worn.

The judge said: “His (Mr Hazlett’s) dishonesty in this aspect of the process has been responsible for these costs being incurred.

“Hopefully this decision will serve as a deterrent to other like-minded litigants.”

Mr Hazlett sued over serious arm and spinal injuries in a road traffic collision at an undisclosed location in Northern Ireland in May 2009.

The 34-year-old was a rear seat passenger in a car driven by one of three defendants in the case.

With liability admitted, the case centred on the level of damages to be awarded and the issue of contributory negligence.

Mr Hazlett, who traded in cars he bought and repaired, said his ability to carry out heavy work had been affected by the accident.

But Mr Justice Gillen held that he had been untruthful about a previous back injury and exaggerated the continuing nature of his condition.

Although the evidence of a private investigator brought in by the defendant was dismissed as being confused and contradictory, the judge said the plaintiff was “evasive and unconvincing” in dealing with future loss of earnings.

He rejected Mr Hazlett’s claim that he had been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

According to a defence medical expert the fractures would probably not have happened if he had been restrained.

Mr Justice Gillen said yesterday: “I am satisfied that these injuries would have been very less severe had he been wearing a seatbelt and accordingly I make a reduction of 20 per cent to reflect that.”

His finding meant the £85,500 damages award was cut to £68,400.

He directed that the expense of bringing in seatbelt specialist Stephen Parkin can be deducted from the plaintiff’s costs.