On December 28th 2014, on a crisp winter's morning, 78-year-old ML was knocked off his bicycle and killed on a quiet high street in East Sussex, by a speeding driver who lost control on a patch of ice.
The 33-year-old driver, G, had a previous endorsement on his licence for using his mobile while driving. At nearly 45 mph, he was driving 50 per cent above the 30 mph speed limit. He hit a patch of ice and lost control of his car, which spun 180 degrees and crashed into ML, who was cycling past.
The ice was caused by a water leak which had been brought to the attention of the water company on 13 December. It was not repaired until 29 December.
Paramedics treated ML at the scene but despite the arrival of the air ambulance, could not save him and he died from his injuries. Two drivers who had earlier also skidded on the same patch of ice managed to regain control of their cars since they were driving within the speed limit. G was eventually sentenced to eight months imprisonment for causing death by careless driving.
The judge at the criminal trial described the case as a tragedy and said his heart went out to ML's widow and their son and daughter who were in court. The couple also have another son.
The couple were married for 53 years. They met in Hove and apart from a short time living and working in London, lived in Sussex their whole married life. They had spent the day before the tragic accident celebrating Christmas with their children and grandchildren.
His family describe ML as the heart and soul of their family of three children and now grandchildren, who had just spent a happy Christmas together. In a reading during the funeral, ML's son described his family home as 'full of laughter… with his father in the background helping his mother and fixing things, trying to keep the peace and working hard to make all our dreams and aspirations come true'.
The deceased's family instructed Fieldfisher to pursue a civil claim for damages against the driver. It was alleged that the driver had breached the duty of care he owed to other road users by driving in excess of the speed limit and at a speed that was excessive given the cold conditions and the risk of ice on the road. Also that he failed to brake, steer or control his vehicle to avoid a collision with the deceased.
Despite the insurance company stalling on providing settlement, Fieldfisher's Claire Glasgow finally agreed a six-figure settlement in September last year to cover funeral expenses, bereavement damages, dependency for his wife on his past and future lost income, her and her family's past and future loss of care and support, loss of his services around the home (cleaning, gardening, DIY, decorating, car maintenance) and loss of his love, care and attention.
The water company and the driver's insurers continue to dispute with the maintenance contractors their negligence in taking 16 days to repair the damaged pipe even though it was a hazard to road users due to the icy weather. They also alleged negligence in that there was no warning to road users by way of signage of the presence of the leak and the hazard of ice. The maintenance contractor had attended the site before the accident date and it was alleged that they had not taken appropriate equipment or enough staff with them to repair the leak. It was further alleged that they had failed to appreciate the urgency of the task given the potential for ice and the speed and volume of traffic.
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