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£4 million damages for cyclist left paralysed by motorist with defective eyesight

Victim will need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life

A cyclist left paralysed after he was hit by a motorist with defective vision who should not have been driving has been awarded £4 million in damages to help pay for the round-the-clock care he will need for the rest of his life. Following the award at London’s High Court, his wife issued a plea for motorists to be more considerate of cyclists.

Patrice Gougam, aged 55, who worked as head coach at Enfield Tennis Club, spent three months in a coma and required a total of 21 months’ hospital treatment, including six months at the National Hospital for Neurosurgery and Neurology in Bloomsbury after the November 2009 incident on the Great North Road between Barnet and Potters Bar.

Even now, he needs a feeding tube in order to eat, and is confined to a wheelchair, reports the London Evening Standard.

As we reported here on in October 2010, the driver involved, pensioner Michael Elliott, now aged 66, was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to charges including dangerous driving, driving with a medical condition, leaving the scene of an accident and failing to notify the DVLA of problems with his eyesight.

Elliott, who suffered from cataracts and glaucoma, claimed not to have seen the Mr Gougam prior to his Land Rover hitting him, and continued on his way to a photography club meeting, where he spent two hours before returning to the scene of the incident.

The judge presiding over the High Court decision praised Mr Gougam’s wife, Virginia, for her “extraordinary care, love and support for her husband, and her determination to do everything she could for his care and rehabilitation," as the award was entered against Elliott and his insurance company.

Afterwards, Mrs Gougam’s solicitors issued a statement which said: "She dearly wishes other motorists to be more aware and patient of cyclists on London's busy roads, so as to reduce the increasing number of tragic stories covering both fatalities and life-changing injuries sustained by cyclists."

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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thereverent | 12 years ago

The law relating to Driving Licences is so out of date now.
There should be some medical check at regular intervals (say 3-5 years).  14
If the government won't do something the Motor Insurance industry should introduce something so they reduce the risk of this happening.

estiel | 12 years ago

8 months in prison??? Thats hardly a sentence at all compared to what the poor victim has to live like for the rest of his life. I bet they didn't even take his licence away!

WolfieSmith | 12 years ago

I was only discussing his last week with my sister as we don't feel my mother should be driving at 81 with ever worsening vision.That she only pops a mile down the road to the shops is immaterial.

I presumed that when you reached 75 you had to take the test again but it seems that a doctors fit note is all that is required. Is that right? Until you are stopped by the police or have an accident where property or person is damaged you can carry on regardless?

It should be law to take the test at 75 and have a paid assessment every 2 years after that with your last test date appearing on your licence.

This gentleman was 66 but how hard would it be for those with poor eyesight to be register with the DVLA by the testing hospital. I realise the NHS computerised record system is over budget and nowhere close but it's a consideration for the future.

I imagine it is only going to get worse unfortunately.

A V Lowe | 12 years ago

The pay out will presumably be met by his insurer, although given he failed to advise of a material medical condition they could easily make the case that the driver's insurance is void, and the driver will be liable for the £4m damages.

However, if this does occur, the driver quite probably won't be able to pay, and so the MIB picks up the tab. The result should be a substantial increase in the interest insurers will now take in the fitness of older drivers to be behind the wheel, and ultimately they may even require a medical examination to get insurance for drivers over a certain age, or offer a discount to drivers over that age who provide a medical certificate.

Perhaps we can lobby for this as an outcome of this tragic example of how an alarming number of drivers continue to drive when they are no longer medically fit to do so.

notfastenough | 12 years ago

So sad. We read these stories and still go out on bikes ourselves, but something like this is beyond the control of even the best cyclist. Stay safe, people.

(Can't help spotting the cruel irony of the fact that the driver was on his way to a photography club meeting)

mad_scot_rider | 12 years ago

An appropriate award sum - but probably very little consolation to the victim

Frankly the description of the behaviour of the perpetrator - yes YOU SIR! - makes my blood boil. Back to the darkened room for a bit

jezzzer | 12 years ago

what a heartbreaking story

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