Compensation for woman who lost husband and step-daughter in …
A woman has finally won compensation for the death of her husband and step-daughter in a car crash in Belgium following an eight year legal battle. Alain Schmit, 53, was driving in the Arlon area in February 2015 when he was involved in a collision with another driver.
The driver was found to be speeding, and Alain and his 18-year-old daughter Amandine, a passenger in his car, were taken to hospital by ambulance. Following the collision, Alain’s widow Deborah Wood, 59, instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help investigate what happened.
Eight years on, a judgment handed down by the High Court on Friday concluded that the other driver was also responsible for the collision. This was despite previous judgments in the Belgian Courts which placed all of the blame on Alain - and, as a result, Deborah was awarded a five figure sum.
Deborah, from Spilsby, Lincolnshire, said: “For the past eight years, my world has stood still while I sought the answers I needed to honour Alain and Amandine’s memories. The judgment has finally provided me with those, and a sense of justice, and I’m thankful for that."
At the time of the crash, Deborah and Alain were living in Messancy, Belgium, having moved there in 2013. Amandine spent weekends and holidays with them, and was in the car with Alain when he was driving on Avenue de Luxembourg on February 21, 2015.
Alain was crossing the junction with Chemin de Dele and Birel when he collided with a Mitsubishi driver. The High Court judgment found that the Mitsubishi driver was travelling between 65mph and 70mph in a 55mph area.
It also found that while Alain had stopped at the junction’s stop sign, he drove across a cycle lane. Had he stopped at the cycle lane, on the balance of probabilities, the Mitsubishi would have been visible to him and “the collision would have been avoided.”
But, there were findings that when the collision occurred, Alain “had not yet encroached on to the southbound carriageway.”
And, at the point of collision, the Mitsubishi driver “had veered to the left…into the turning lane". Had he not done that, “the collision would have been avoided.”
As a result, it was concluded that responsibility for the crash should be apportioned on a 50/50 basis. Deborah described the last eight years as a "nightmare", but she now believes, after the decision, she'll be able to move forward.
She's also urged others to stay safe on the roads and take care at all times while driving. Deborah said: "When I arrived at the crash scene, I was speaking to Alain so I thought everything was going to be okay.
"But, once I got to the hospital, I realised the severity of the injuries he and Amandine had suffered. I was there with Alain’s family and Amandine’s mum, and when we were told that she hadn’t made it, I was in complete shock; I couldn’t take it in.
"Then to be told that Alain wasn’t going to survive and we had to say our goodbyes was incredibly traumatic. I was completely heartbroken. It’s taken me a long time to even begin to come to terms with what happened that day.
"I lost my husband and my stepdaughter, who I saw as my own daughter, in the space of a few hours. I’d give anything to bring Alan and Amandine back, but I know that’s not possible.
"All I can do now is finally begin to move forward from the nightmare I’ve been living. I also hope that by sharing my story, I can urge others to stay safe on the roads.
"My life was completely shattered in a few seconds and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
James Riley, the specialist international serious injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell representing Deborah, said after the hearing: “Deborah has always believed that the Mitsubishi driver’s actions that day weren’t blameless.
"She was determined to honour her husband’s memory by at least establishing all of the facts regarding the collision. We feel we put forward strong legal arguments as to why the decision of the Belgian authorities to absolve the Mitsubishi driver were wrong.
“While nothing can make up for what’s happened, we welcome the judgment. It finally gives Deborah the answers she’s been waiting for."