Portuguese insurers rapped after “agony” caused to British family

Insurance company Ocidental S.A. suffered an embarrassing defeat in the British High Court last week when a judge ruled that an horrific accident in which a British couple was mown down as they tried to cross a main road in Quarteira was wholly the fault of the driver.
Ocidental’s barrister had tried to argue that the accident – which killed Martin Vann, 65 and left his wife June permanently brain-damaged – was partly the couple’s fault as they had failed to “keep a lookout” and crossed the road “when it was unsafe”.
Ocidental S.A. even contended that the couple had “failed to get out of the way” of the oncoming vehicle and had breached the Highway Code.
The firm’s extraordinary defence cut little ice with the British High Court however, which ruled the accident was caused by the Brazilian driver of the car that had hit the Vanns.
Previously, defence barrister Gerard McDermott QC had told the court that the driver was travelling “too fast – about 60mph – for the conditions, that he was unable to stop in the distance he could see to be clear and that he failed to keep an adequate lookout”, reported the UK’s Echo newspaper.
Talking to journalists after the verdict, the Vanns’ lawyer Mark Lee explained that Ocidental had initially accepted liability for the accident that took place in 2010, when the Vanns were leaving Quarteira’s Os Agostinhos restaurant.
“Mr and Mrs Vann’s children have done their best to continue to look after June although this is very challenging because of her behavioural changes resulting from the accident,” he said.
“Not only did they lose their father but, in many ways, they have also lost the mother that they knew and loved.”
It was disappointing, he added, that the Portuguese insurer had “felt it appropriate to withdraw its previous admission of liability, and surprising that it continued to fight primary liability in the run up to the trial”, but now that the defendant had been held 100% responsible, the Vann family hope Ocidental SA “will now adopt a more sensible approach to the negotiations so that we can draw a line under this terrible tragedy”.
The children of Mrs Vann, who had to be airlifted back to the UK after the accident, and spent nine months as an inpatient in a neurological rehabilitation centre, had initiated the prosecution as they are fighting for compensation to help pay the ongoing cost of care needed for their mother.