21 March 2021



As a personal injury lawyer, specialising in representing those injured in road traffic collisions, I read with interest the decision of Lady Wise in the recently reported decision of Widowsons Executrix V Liberty Insurance Limited [2021] CSOH 15, OH.

The case was raised by the widow of John Widdowson (59), who was seriously injured in a road traffic accident on the 1st January 2016 and who subsequently died of his injuries on the 11th January 2016.
The First defender was the motor insurer of the late Daniel Gordon who caused the collision. The second and third defenders were NHS Grampian and NHS Highland having responsibility for Dr Grays Hospital, Elgin and Raigmore Hospital, Inverness respectively.

Daniel Gordon lost control of his vehicle on a bend. It was likely he attempted to negotiate the bend in excess of 80 mph. He crossed over the carriageway and collided with a car driven by Elizabeth McPhee. Mr Widdowson was a passenger in that vehicle. He was taken by ambulance to Dr Grays Hospital in Elgin where he remained overnight before discharge the following day. The next evening, he was admitted to Raigmore Hospital where he underwent surgery on the 8th of January 2016 but suffered a cardiac arrest and died on the 11th of January 2016.

All three defenders admitted liability to some extent and the quantification of damages was agreed with the remaining contentious issue being the apportionment of blame.

To determine where liability for the deceased’s death would lie, Lady Wise looked at the relative blameworthiness and causative potency of each defender. The undisputed facts of the case were the high degree of blameworthiness of the driver who had caused the collision through his reckless driving. The negligent act admitted by NHS Grampian was the failure to perform a CT scan to investigate internal injuries and the admitted negligence of NHS Highland was that of adopting a conservative course of management until the 7th of January. The surgical team departed from the accepted practice of urgent surgical intervention.

Lady Wise concluded that the deceased life-threatening injuries had been caused by the fault of the driver, but that there were opportunities thereafter to save the deceased’s life. Had surgery been performed on the 4th of January, on balance, the deceased would have survived the incident. In all the circumstances, she found the first defenders liable for 70% of the agreed damages, with the second and third defenders each liable for 15% of the damages awarded.

The apportionment of liability between different parties in road traffic collisions is not always a simple matter. Each case is assessed on its own merits and the attribution of fault to any one party is arrived at by consideration of blameworthiness and the respective causal potency.

The vulnerability of a particular category of road user is also relevant in apportionment of blame. For example, in the case of Hernandez v Arkar [2019] EWHC 72(QB), the claimant suffered life-changing injuries after a driver pulled out of a junction into his path. Hernandez was riding his motorcycle at a speed of between 45mph and 50mph in a 30mph zone in Hackney, London. The case was very balanced with regard to blame, as Hernandez was there to be seen. Hernandez’ speed was relevant when assessing blameworthiness, but the effect of his causative potency, being a vulnerable motorcyclist capable of bringing much less harm to the collision, tipped the balance in his favour. The Judge apportioned blame 60% to the driver and 40% to the motorcyclist.

In conclusion, when it comes to the question of who’s to blame in a road traffic incident, sometimes it is not entirely clear. We have all heard that if you run into the back on another driver, then you are to blame, but there may be other factors which lead to a different conclusion. People often look to the law for a clear black and white answer, but in reality, these matters are often more finely balanced shades of grey.

Thomas Mitchell – Solicitor

Read all our latest news


9 June 2022

Big buzz about electric transportation

A new Low speed, Zero Emission Vehicle category is likely to be introduced by DfT in a new Transport Bill. E-scooters are likely to be the first to be introduced within this class. 

Read More >


20 February 2022

The new Highway Code – what’s all the fuss about?

Safe and courteous road users have nothing to worry about as far as the new Highway code rules are concerned


Read More >


16 November 2021

Road Safety Week 2021

RTALS are supporting Road Safety Week 2021 recognising the work undertaken by our Road Safety heroes. 

Read More >


31 October 2021


A defence in automatism has no place in Civil Law

Read More >


2 September 2021

It's all in the balance

Working a 4 day week may sound strange to many, but if a busy Law firm can make it work, then surely others will be able to follow suit.

Read More >


21 March 2021


When it comes to the question of who’s to blame in a road traffic incident, sometimes it is not entirely clear. 

Read More >


26 January 2021

The Courts are getting there virtually

There can be no going backwards now for the Civil courts after accepting a new virtual system for Court hearings.

Read More >


9 December 2020

Independent ethos

Remaining independent is part of our ethos. All our cases are generated organically. We never purchase cases from insurers and we don't work with referral companies. 

Read More >


29 November 2020

Swift v Carpenter judgement

In times of negative discount rates, we finally have a more equitable approach to calculating the costs of accommodation costs thanks to the Swift v Carpenter decision.


Read More >


24 November 2020

Case Law and accidents on icy roads

Compensation claims for road traffic incidents caused by icy roads are inherently difficult to win but a recent case, Smithson v Lynn, has changed this position. 

Read More >


6 October 2020

Behind the mask

Personal injury claimants should beware that insurers are looking at your social media profiles and activity. Of course, what is portrayed is not always representative of what is actually going on 'behind the mask.' 

Read More >


13 May 2020


In this interview with adventurer, speaker and now Champion cyclist, Jaco van Gass, we find out how he overcame the loss of an arm through acceptance and then developed and achieved new goals through positive mental attitude and shear resilience.


Read More >


20 April 2020

It's time to restart our beating heart

Whilst Insurers and Law firms operating within the Civil Justice system in Scotland have successfully adapted their working practices in order to continue to progress cases, the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service has simply shut up shop.

Read More >


16 April 2020

The Rainbow Children

Rainbows are popping up all across the country and are synonymous with hope and tolerance across the world.

Read More >


9 April 2020

Working from home

Ewen Stewart, Legal Assistant, at RTALS has predominantly worked from home for over 20 years so has plenty of tips for those who are new to homeworking due to Covid-19 restrictions. He has had to make some adjustments to his own way of working though too.

Read More >


1 April 2020

Searching for the positives

When the world seems to have ground to a halt and life as we know it has been put on hold, it can be very easy to feel down and lost. It is important to search for the positives.

Read More >


8 March 2020

Dear Sirs

It's time the use of 'Dear Sirs" as a method of addressing an individual is reviewed. After all, we are in 2020.

Read More >


31 October 2019

Do you trust insurers?

Consumer trust in insurance companies is falling. Would you trust them to appoint a Lawyer in the event of injury following a road traffic collision?

Read More >


29 October 2019

It's getting increasingly technical

For lawyers working in the field of personal injury, keeping abreast of the latest available equipment for an injured client is vital. Complex injuries demand innovative and complex solutions to aid client rehabilitation.

Read More >


Motorcycle Law Scotland Logo

Motorcycle Law Scotland is a unique legal service for injured motorcyclists following a road traffic collision in Scotland. We aim to ensure that motorcyclists and their families receive the best possible legal advice and support.

Our dynamic team of experienced legal experts are also motorcyclists. As specialists, our knowledge of motorcycling incidents, motorcyclists’ needs, motorcycles and the Law is second to none.

We see our clients, and sometimes their family members face to face, so we get to know them well.

Our clients trust us because we speak their language.

Pedestrian Law Scotland

Pedestrian Law Scotland provides specialist personal injury legal representation for pedestrians involved in road traffic incidents in Scotland.

If you've been injured in a road traffic collison as a pedestrian in Scotland within the last three years through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to claim compensation for your loss, injury or damage.

We work on a 'no win no fee' basis and can provide access to justice at no financial risk to you. We will fund your case from start to finish.

Just fill in the contact form or give us a call to discuss your case with one of our specialist Lawyers.

Cycle Law Scotland logo

Cycle Law Scotland is a specialist personal injury legal service for cyclists who have been injured on Scotland's roads through no fault of their own.

The team of legal experts are also all cyclists themselves. As specialists, our knowledge of cycling incidents, cyclists’ needs, bicycles and the Law is second to none.

We like to meet all our clients and sometimes their families personally, so we get to know them well. 

We're passionate about providing the best possible service for our clients and our prime focus is to get them fit again and back on their bikes.

To discuss your potential claim for injury, damage or loss, just contact us.





All correspondence should be addressed or delivered to:
Road Traffic Accident Law (Scotland) LLP
16-20 Castle Street,



If you have been involved in a road traffic collision, you can contact us below at an address nearest to you or if you prefer to use our online enquiry form just give your name and number and one of our specialist lawyers will contact you.



4 Redheughs Rigg Westpoint,
South Gyle,
EH12 9DQ


1 West Regent Street,
G2 1RW



One Marischal Square,
Broad Street,
Aberdeen, AB10 1BL


5 Cherry Court,
Cavalry Park,
Peebles, EH45 9BU