Justice: Drivers should be prepared for unexpected obstacles
A JUSTICE has warned drivers are responsible for anticipating "unexpected obstacles" while driving on the Bruce Highway as he awarded $400,000 damages to a German tourist involved in a crash.
Justice James Henry said it was well known to all drivers that there was an "ever present risk" they might encounter myriad obstacles on the road in front of them.
"On the Bruce Highway those obstacles might include, for example, stopped vehicles, fallen vehicle loads, pedestrians and living or dead animals," he said.
"Perhaps the most obvious of those examples is that which manifested itself in this case, namely a stationary vehicle on the highway ahead.
"No driver can safely assume the highway ahead will be clear.
"Nor does the risk of unexpectedly encountering an obstacle diminish at night time when the reduced range of visibility characteristic of night time driving makes it even more difficult than in the day time to perceive unexpected obstacles on the highway ahead."
Johannes Baptist Habig suffered a serious head injury when a truck struck the van he was travelling in on the Bruce Highway north of Pindi Pindi, near Calen, about 10pm on June 22, 2006.
His Toyota Hiace van had broken down, blocking part of the southbound lane, and its lights were off.
Truck driver Ian Allan McCrae "unwittingly" approached the highway hazard as he drove south and failed to notice until the last moment.
Mr Habig filed for personal injury damages and consequential loss in the Brisbane Supreme Court, arguing Mr McCrae was negligent and breached his driving duties in failing to keep a proper lookout.
Mr McCrae - who was carting 10 tonnes of bread for his employer JWB Holdings whose truck is insured through AAI - denied any negligence and argued he had exercised a reasonable standard of care.
The three defendants alleged Mr Habig voluntarily assumed the risk of injury because he was knowingly travelling in a vehicle that was in a dangerously unreliable.
Mr Habig and two other German tourists bought the van in Sydney for $3400.
It had broken down twice on their journey north, first at Rainbow Beach and then at Bundaberg.
Examiners at Calen could not determine whether any of the defects detected actually contributed to the crash.
Justice Henry said Mr Habig, who had no memory of where he was when the crash occurred, should have appreciated grave risks from oncoming traffic using the highway and that night drivers would not easily see the unlit van from afar.
But he said Mr McCrae was in charge of a large truck that had the potential to cause great harm if not driven in a manner and speed allowing him to react safety to obstacles.