Skateboarder collides with car, but compensation reduced

Skateboard and helmet in suburban neighbourhood

A young man who collided with a car when riding his skateboard after dark on a reasonably busy road was awarded over $905,000 in compensation for his injuries, but his payout was reduced by 20% due to contributory negligence.

The accident

The 27 year-old man was using his skateboard on his way to his sister’s home on the evening of 16 August 2010, when a car unexpectedly turned in front of him without indicating, in order to make a U-turn. He was unable to stop or swerve to avoid the car, so he decided to try to jump over it. However, he was struck by the car, rolled over it and was propelled about nine metres along the road.
His right wrist and both kneecaps suffered complex fractures which required surgery and wiring. After the surgery he awoke and moved his legs, causing wiring in his right knee to protrude. Splints were placed on both legs for several months to immobilise them.
After that, he had ongoing issues with restricted mobility, protruding wires and infection. He complained of constant pain which was worse with activity, and also had problems taking painkillers due to their side effects.
After the accident he lost the tenancy of the house he’d been renting as he was unable to pay the rent, instead he stayed with friends wherever he could.
In February 2012 he resumed his pre-injury employment for a short period, but the work caused throbbing pain in his knees, which disturbed his sleep. Besides the pain, his knees were also prone to buckling under him. His attempts to undertake other types of work also failed and his relationship with his girlfriend ended. He became homeless again, living with his dog in a bus shelter.
Faced with ongoing pain, disability and a severely reduced capacity to work, he claimed compensation for his injuries.

Contributory negligence

The District Court of New South Wales heard evidence about the accident and his injuries, the culpability of the woman driving the car, and also how the man’s own actions had contributed to the collision.
It was noted that in riding his skateboard at night, he was in breach of the road rules. He may have been travelling too fast, and moreover, his blood alcohol at the time of the accident was 0.094 g/100ml, so his judgement may have been impaired and he may have been more likely to take risks. Without lights or protective equipment, he had been completely vulnerable to the risk of injury. In disregarding the risks involved in his actions, he was guilty of contributory negligence.
The main factor in causing the accident, however, was that the woman driving the car had been driving in an overwhelmingly negligent manner. Her unexpected attempt to make a U-turn across double white lines, without indicating, and across the plaintiff’s path of travel at a distance of 2.25 metres was largely to blame for what happened. As she was driving a car, she also had the greater likelihood of causing harm.
The judge concluded that liability in respect of this accident should be apportioned at 80% to the driver of the car and 20% to the skateboarder.


The man, who was 33 at the time of the hearing, claimed compensation for non-economic loss, loss of income earning capacity, attendant care and medical expenses.
The judge noted that he was distressed by his post-accident situation and took this factor into account, together with his significant injuries and his prospect, at the age of 33, of lifelong disability, discomfort and worsening arthritis as a result of those injuries. He assessed his non-economic loss at $200,000.
With regard to loss of income, the judge accepted the medical opinion that the plaintiff was not, and would never be, fit to return to the type of work he did before the accident. The judge also took his level of skills and education into account. With little prospect of alternative employment in the absence of vocational training, the plaintiff’s past and future lost income was valued at $632,376.
Past and future attendant care involving four hours of care per week was assessed at $190,418, while past and future out-of-pocket expenses were assessed at $70,672.
With interest, and after a 20% reduction for contributory negligence, the total damages awarded were $905,773.
The decision was handed down on 17 December 2015, five years and four months after the date of the accident.

Leif Quinton Cruickshank v Daniela Radojicic [2015] NSWDC 312.

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