Family win £1.8m ambulance compensation claim ruling

The wife and children of a 49 year old man killed when his car collided with an ambulance have won their battle for compensation . Judges at London’s Court of Appeal ruled that the total compensation of £1.8 million awarded at a previous hearing at Cardiff County Court should stand.

Judges had delayed their decision on the pay-out after the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust challenged the amount of damages to be paid to the family of Gordon Williams, who was killed in a collision with an ambulance in June 2001. The ambulance service had admitted liability over the fatal crash on the B4350 near Glasbury, Powys, but questioned the high amount of compensation awarded as they believed that Mr Williams’ family did not require that much as Mr Williams had built up a successful business and had been worth around £4 million.

Mr Williams’ widow Jennifer, 59, and their three adult children, David, Sarah and Ruth, from Hay-on-Wye, won the award which was based upon the wealth and potential earnings of Mr Williams. The judge also ordered the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust to pay more than £100,000 in interest and £100,000 of the legal costs.

William Stevenson QC, argued on behalf of the trust that the trial judge was wrong to find the family so heavily dependant on Mr Williams’ earnings and that his businesses had continued to thrive after his death under the supervision of his children and so the family had not been affected financially.

The three judges at the Court of Appeal rejected Mr Stevenson’s claim that the award was in effect just a “windfall” for the family. Lady Justice Smith, Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Lloyd all concluded that it was evident that Mrs Williams and her children were dependants of Mr Williams before his death.

Lady Justice Smith said: “The fact that each of them was as well off after the death as before, because David and Sarah took over the responsibility for managing the business and did so successfully, is nothing to the point. It was irrelevant that David and Sarah had made a success of the business… the dependency is fixed at the moment of death; it is what the dependants would probably have received as benefit from the deceased, had the deceased not died. What decisions people make afterwards is irrelevant.”

The Welsh Ambulance Services Trust is ordered to pay the settlement, interest and legal fees within 28 days.

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