A Lincolnshire woman devastated when her husband and stepdaughter died in a crash in Belgium says she can “finally begin to move forward” after a High Court judgment ended her eight-year wait for answers.
Alain Schmit was driving an Audi A6 in the Arlon area when he was involved in a collision with a Mitsubishi Evo, the driver of which was found to be speeding.
Alain, 53, and his 18-year-old daughter Amandine, who was a passenger in his car, were taken to hospital by ambulance. Both died from their injuries.
Following the collision, in February 2015, Alain’s widow Deborah Wood, 59, instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help investigate what happened.
Eight years on, a judgment handed down by the High Court on Friday concluded that the driver of the Mitsubishi was also responsible for the collision, despite previous judgments in the Belgian Courts which placed all of the blame on Alain.
Deborah, from Spilsby, Lincolnshire, has revealed she can now start to move on from her “nightmare.” It comes after her legal team helped secure her a five-figure sum awarded by the court.
James Riley, the specialist international serious injury solicitor at Irwin Mitchell representing Deborah, said after the hearing: “Understandably, the past eight years have been incredibly difficult for Deborah as she attempts to come to terms with losing both her beloved husband and stepdaughter in such tragic circumstances.
“Deborah has always believed that the Mitsubishi driver’s actions that day weren’t blameless and she was determined to honour her husband’s memory by at least establishing all of the facts regarding the collision.
“We feel we put forward strong legal arguments as to why the decision of the Belgian authorities to absolve the Mitsubishi driver were wrong. While nothing can make up for what’s happened, we welcome the judgment. It finally gives Deborah the answers she’s been waiting for.
“Deborah’s story is also a stark reminder of the potential dangers on the roads and the need for everyone to take care at all times. We’ll continue to support her as she continues her attempt to come to terms with her loss.”
At the time, Deborah and Alain were living in Messancy, Belgium, having moved there in 2013. Amandine spent weekends and holidays with them.
The crash happened on Avenue de Luxembourg on 21 February 2015, whilst Alain was crossing the junction with Chemin de Dele and Birel.
The High Court judgment found that the Mitsubishi driver was travelling “well in excess of the speed limit,” doing between 65mph and 70mph in a 55mph area.
It also found that while Alain had stopped at the junction’s stop sign, he drove across a cycle lane. Had he stopped at the cycle lane, on the balance of probabilities, the Mitsubishi would have been visible to him and “the collision would have been avoided.”
However, there were findings that when the collision occurred, Alain “had not yet encroached on to the southbound carriageway.” Furthermore, at the point of collision the Mitsubishi driver “had veered to the left…into the turning lane” and had he not done that, “the collision would have been avoided.” The judgment also found that if the Mitsubishi had been travelling within the speed limit, it would have been able to stop and “the collision would have been avoided.”
As a result, it was concluded that responsibility for the crash should be apportioned on a 50/50 basis.
Deborah said: “When I arrived at the crash scene, I was speaking to Alain so I thought everything was going to be okay, but once I got to the hospital I realised the severity of the injuries he and Amandine had suffered.
“I was there with Alain’s family and Amandine’s mum, and when we were told that she hadn’t made it, I was in complete shock; I couldn’t take it in. Then to be told that Alain wasn’t going to survive and we had to say our goodbyes was incredibly traumatic. I was completely heartbroken.
“It’s taken me a long time to even begin to come to terms with what happened that day. I lost my husband and my stepdaughter, who I saw as my own daughter, in the space of a few hours.
“For the past eight years, my world has stood still while I sought the answers I needed to honour Alain and Amandine’s memories. The judgment has finally provided me with those and a sense of justice, and I’m thankful for that.
“I’d give anything to bring Alan and Amandine back, but I know that’s not possible. All I can do now is finally begin to move forward from the nightmare I’ve been living. I also hope that by sharing my story, I can urge others to stay safe on the roads. My life was completely shattered in a few seconds and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”