A CYCLIST left paralysed from the neck down and on a life support machine is expected to receive damages of about £9 million after being hit by a company car driver while he was using a hands-free mobile phone.
The company representative, who has not been prosecuted, was on hold to his bank when he hit Timothy Sanders at about 70mph in his Peugeot.
A court was told: 'The driver had been on the phone for some minutes, but at the material time he stated he was not actually speaking to anyone, merely waiting for his call to be transferred to someone else.'
The £9 million payout is thought to be the highest awarded to a British citizen by an English court and raises concerns of whether hands-free kits should be made illegal. Lawyers representing the driver's company insurers admitted that using the phone had played a part in the accident.
Sanders' solicitor, Simon Holt, said: 'This case shows the inherent danger of people making telephone calls while driving even if they have a hands-free system. The driver was never prosecuted but it was our case that using the phone had to have been a distraction or he would have seen Timothy.'
The judge approved a payment of £250,000 a year for life, alongside a £1.1 million lump sum, which could total more than £9 million during Sanders' lifetime. The funds will be used to pay for around-the-clock care. Although his brain is working perfectly, Sanders has been left immobile, unable to breathe, move, speak, eat or swallow on his own, requiring 24-hour care for the rest of his life.
From December 1 it will be illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. Drivers will be charged a fixed penalty of £30 and three penalty points or a fine on conviction of up to £1,000 (Fleet NewsNet September 19). Hands-free mobiles are not affected by the legislation.