At the time of the accident, the injured Plaintiff was 21 years old. It was about 5:55 pm and she was walking to her work at a retail store in the Queen Street Mall. It was a Friday and the CBD night shopping in the lead up to Christmas meant there were a lot of pedestrians and vehicles.
The injured Plaintiff had come out of the King George Square bus station onto Adelaide Street and turned to her left and was walking past Office Works and needed to get to the other side of the road, where the Brisbane Arcade is located. There is a pedestrian crossing with lights to her right but she had turned to her left after coming out of the bus station.
The pedestrian lights to her right were red and so there were no vehicles in the two lanes on the Office Works side of Adelaide Street where she was looking to cross to the Brisbane Arcade side. However, the other side of Adelaide Street was full of banked us cars and buses. She though she saw a point where it would be safe to cross and decided to go for it. As she got to the middle of the road, the lights to her right at the pedestrian crossing changed from red to green for the traffic and so she quickened her pace to get to the other side because everything had just started to move.
Adelaide Street is 13.3 m wide and has two lanes of traffic in each direction. It is very busy in peak hour and there are a lot of buses. The speed limit was 40 km/hr.
The Plaintiff moved between two vehicles after she crossed the road’s centre line and said she left looked to her left and saw it was clear in the final lane for 50 to 100 m she had to cross before she reached the Brisbane Arcade footpath. It was still quite light as it was almost summer and it was not yet 6:00 pm.
The Plaintiff said she took 3 steps into the final lane that she thought was clear and was hit on her left side by a bus. She said the vehicle to her left was a small car and not as large as a 4WD. She was sure that there had not been a bus stopped on that side of the road that could have then pulled out from the kerb and hit her.
The driver of the bus said he had stopped about 50 metres from the collision and realised he was at the wrong bus stop. So he continued forward at about 10 km/hr and as he was about to pass the Brisbane Arcade on his left, the Plaintiff came running between two stationary busses and hit the front driver side of his bus. He said he braked immediately and stopped in about 3 m.
The Brisbane City Council CCTV footage of the accident was apparently corrupted and the police were not able to get a copy of it. They asked the BCC for a report about what had happened to the CCTV and never got a reply. It was a BCC bus that had hit the Plaintiff.
Before the CCTV had been corrupted a police officer had managed to view it and had wrote down that it showed the Plaintiff being struck by the bus as she ran from between two other buses.
The Court found that the bus that hit the Plaintiff must have been there when she looked to her left and that while she was not being untruthful, she was mistaken when she said the last lane she went to cross was clear for 50 to 100 m to her left.
In the end the Court decided that the Plaintiff had been moving at a speed closer to running than walking and she had come out in front of the bus from between two other buses, denying the driver who hit her the opportunity to see the risk and react to avoid it. Even keeping a proper lookout and driving at about 15 km/hr, which was considered slow enough by the Court, the driver could not be expected to brake in time to avoid the collision. The accident was the Plaintiff’s fault and her pedestrian injury claim was dismissed.
The Court considered a pedestrian injury claim where a bus had run down a pedestrian while driving at about 35 to 40 km/hr and another where the bus was going about 40 km/hr. Both of those driver’s were found liable, despite complying with speed limits, because they were not focused on the risk of hitting a pedestrian in an area where that risk was high. In this case though, the driver was found to have been moving at 15 km/hr (or less) with no warning of the Plaintiff running out from between two buses, and that was considered reasonable for the conditions, even though the speed limit was 40 km/hr.
The lesson for drivers facing a pedestrian injury claim is that complying with speed limits is not necessarily sufficient to avoid liability for hitting a pedestrian. The driver must slow to a reasonably safe speed given the circumstances and where there is a heightened risk of hitting a pedestrian, must be especially focused on taking reasonable care to avoid that risk. The lesson for a pedestrian injury claim is that even if you are far enough from a pedestrian crossing that it is legal to cross the road, you should look twice and very carefully and consider the ability of other drivers to see you before you proceed.