Quadriplegic awarded $4m in damages

SYDNEY (AAP): A P-plate driver left quadriplegic after a car crash on the NSW north coast was yesterday awarded $4.3 million in damages, after suing the local council that was carrying out roadworks at the accident site.

Jon Watt, now 25, suffered severe spinal injuries when he crashed his Holden sedan near Grafton in March, 1998.

He successfully sued Copmanhurst Shire Council in the NSW Supreme Court for negligence, claiming poor signage and loose gravel on the road led to the accident.

Mr Watt was driving to his grandparents' house in Grafton when he passed through roadworks on the Summerland Way.

The court was told that when he braked to avoid a kangaroo, his car fishtailed on loose gravel, hit an embankment and flipped over.

The council had erected signs in the area limiting the speed to 60km/h, warning of roadworks and advising motorists to slow down.

But Mr Watt argued the council should have displayed signs alerting drivers to the condition of the road, and repeated warning signs every 500 metres.

Handing down his judgment, Justice Timothy Studdert found the council should have cleaned away any build-up of loose gravel and put up signs warning of its presence on the road.

The council's failure to take such steps contributed to the accident, he said.

But Mr Watt also failed to take reasonable care for his own safety, Justice Studdert found.

The 18-year-old P-plate driver had been travelling at 80km/h ? 20km/h over the limit ? when he lost control of his car.

He said he did not remember seeing signs warning of roadworks.

But even if proper safety signs had been in place, and Mr Watt had seen them, he probably would not have slowed down, Justice Studdert said.

Justice Studdert said Mr Watt was driving too fast in the circumstances, which 'contributed to the accident that occurred in very real measure'.

Had Mr Watt not shared responsibility for the accident, the judge would have awarded him $6.5 million in damages.

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