Important Legal Milestone For Seriously Injured Man ‘Haunted’ By Fatal French Car Crash

Irwin Mitchell Secures Successful Judgment After High Court Trial

27.11.2015

A man who was seriously injured when a driver crashed into his car after falling asleep at the wheel on a French motorway, killing his friend, has spoken out for the first time after specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured victory at the High Court.

Christopher Pickard, from Oswestry, in Shropshire was driving along the A85 motorway near Thiais in France with his friend and colleague, Paul Marshall, after completing their work at a winery in France in August 2012 when he realised he had a loose wheel on the trailer he was towing and pulled onto the hard shoulder.

A recovery van came to fix the tyre and, soon afterwards, a car crashed into Christopher’s car and trailer, and the recovery van, catapulting Christopher onto the main carriageway. Mr Marshall, who was also struck, ended up beneath the trailer and tragically died at the scene.

Christopher, 53, lost consciousness for a few seconds and, as he realised he was on the carriageway, he tried to drag himself to the barrier out of danger. He was rushed to Henri Mondor Hospital, in Créteil, by paramedics and taken for scans and x-rays. He was diagnosed with a fractured ankle and knee, bruising on his collar bone and ribs, severe whiplash and damage to his spine.

The French driver of the car, who had fallen asleep at the wheel, was charged with manslaughter and causing unintentional injuries with the use of a motor vehicle as well as driving without insurance. She was sentenced to two years imprisonment, which was suspended, and a one year driving ban.

Mr Pickard, an engineer and blacksmith who runs his own company, instructed specialist International Personal Injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the accident in Paris and to pursue the case against the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) as the accident happened in Europe and the French driver was uninsured. Victims of accidents in other EU countries caused by uninsured drivers have the right to seek compensation from the MIB in the UK.

Although the MIB admitted the accident was solely caused by the negligence of the uninsured French driver, it disputed Mr Pickard’s claim on the basis that French law would not place any obligation on the French equivalent of the MIB to compensate Mr Pickard. It was alleged that French law states that any other insured vehicles that are deemed to be “involved” in an accident are liable to compensate instead, regardless of any fault in causing the accident. 

Further, the legal representatives for the MIB insisted that Mr Pickard redirect his claim to the insurers of the French recovery truck and to his own motor insurers

Following a trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Dingemans QC determined that no other vehicle was involved in Mr Pickard’s accident and that the MIB is therefore liable to compensate him.

Christopher stayed in hospital in France for six days and then was discharged back to the UK with strong pain killers and anti-blood clotting medication and his leg was set in a plaster cast. He suffered a blood clot in his right leg and could not work for several months and had to have warfarin injections for four months.

Christopher said: “The accident itself happened so quickly – literally in the blink of an eye. Everything went black and I just remember opening my eyes and I was on the carriageway and felt the most unimaginable pain in my leg and whole body that I have ever felt before.

“The accident has had a very traumatic impact on my life and it is something that will never leave me as long as I live. Losing Mr Marshall in the accident was absolutely devastating and the whole ordeal is still fresh in my mind years later.

“Due to the extent of my injuries I had a total of seven-and-a-half months off work and I am still undergoing physiotherapy to help with my recovery. I am haunted by the image of Paul lying underneath the trailer and I suffer regular flashbacks and nightmares about the crash.

“I am relieved that with the help of my legal team at Irwin Mitchell that the MIB has been found liable for the incident after years of them denying responsibility and adding to mine and Paul’s family’s pain and suffering.”