Sinead Moran, a solicitor in our dedicated recoveries team successfully represented the claimant at trial, recovering the full amount claimed.
Much turned on the credibility of the witnesses. We had spoken, at length, to our witnesses and assessed the witnesses' credibility in advance of the trial. We knew what the witnesses' answers would be when they were giving evidence. This meant there were no surprises. We appreciate giving evidence can be daunting and we explained the process to the witnesses in advance so that they were in the best place to give the best evidence on the day.
After a two vehicle collision involving the claimant and the defender's insured, liability was admitted.
The accident occurred prior to the first national Covid-19 lockdown.
The claimant was provided with a replacement vehicle while his own vehicle was being repaired.
Before repairs could be effected, the repairing garage required to close due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
The claimant sought recovery of the cost of hiring a replacement vehicle for 96 days plus an award for the inconvenience he had suffered as a result of the accident.
Main Issue in Dispute
The defender disputed that the claimant required to a hire vehicle in the first place. The defender also argued that, if a hire vehicle was required, the claimant had failed to mitigate his loss. They argued that the period of hire was too long on the basis that:
(i) the claimant's vehicle ought to have been repaired prior to the garage closing for lockdown;
(ii) and in any event, the claimant ought to have taken his own vehicle back while the garage was closed, as it was roadworthy - notwithstanding the damage caused by the accident.
If the defender was correct in relation to either (i) or (ii) above, then it meant that the claimant would have required to hire a replacement vehicle for a period of 12 days only – not 96.
We led two witnesses on behalf of the claimant – the claimant and an engineer. The defender did not call any witnesses.
The claimant gave evidence first. He stated that he required a replacement vehicle while his own was being repaired. He was a key worker during lockdown and required a vehicle in order to commute to and from work. He advised the court that he could not have used his wife's vehicle as she required this to commute to her own work, albeit only one mile away. She also required to visit her elderly and ill grandmother in the evenings.
The claimant also said that he had called the garage on a number of occasions to try to get his vehicle repaired and returned to him.
The engineer gave evidence that although the engineer's report stated the vehicle was roadworthy, this was an error and it was corrected on the engineer's internal system. This was evidence provided to the defender prior to the trial, but they wished to cross examine the engineer on the point.
The engineer also gave evidence on the duration of repairs. The engineer's report anticipated that repairs would take a period of 9 days. The defender argued that, as repairs were authorised on 12 March 2020 and lockdown did not commence until 23 March 2020, the claimant's vehicle could have been repaired in that period. In theory, that would have been possible. However, the engineer gave evidence that the garage would have been busy in the run up to lockdown (and indeed for a period when it reopened) and it was not unreasonable that they were unable to complete the repairs before they required to close.
The judge considered several points:
- Whether the claimant needed a hire vehicle
The judge found that the claimant did require a replacement vehicle. In his view, it would be unreasonable for the claimant to ask his wife to give up her car and walk to work while he used her vehicle for over 3 months. He also found that it would be unreasonable to expect the claimant to use public transport to/from his work - approximately 45 minutes away. He also accepted that it would not be fair to expect the claimant to take a taxi to work - at a cost of approximately £25 each way.
- Whether the car was roadworthy
Although the engineer was not an independent expert, the judge found him to be credible and reliable in his evidence. The judge accepted his evidence that the claimant's vehicle was not roadworthy following the accident and so the claimant could not have had it returned to him while the garage was closed.
- Whether it was reasonable for the pursuer to hire a car for 96 days
The judge determined that the claimant did everything he reasonably could have to mitigate his loss including calling the garage, requesting his vehicle be returned and checking when the garage would be able to continue with the repair of his vehicle.
As the claimant had established (i) the need for a replacement vehicle, (ii) the status of his own vehicle as unroadworthy pending repairs and (iii) that he had attempted to progress the repairs and return of his vehicle in the run up to, and during lockdown, it was, in turn, entirely reasonable for the claimant to hire a car until his vehicle was, in fact repaired.
Awards for the inconvenience suffered by a claimant in having to liaise with their insurers, the repairing garage and any vehicle hire company are often agreed in the region of £50. In this case, we sought £200 and the judge agreed that was a reasonable figure.
The claimant was awarded the full cost of hiring a replacement vehicle for 96 days. He was also awarded £200 for inconvenience plus interest.