Former Exmouth sailor awarded £500k damages after car crash wrecks dreams

PUBLISHED: 12:30 06 June 2016 | UPDATED: 15:18 06 June 2016


A judge has awarded almost half a million pounds in compensation to a former top-class sailor from Exmouth, whose dreams of a military career were shattered when she was seriously injured in a head-on car crash.

An ex-Exmouth Community College student, Rosie Sands, 29, was awarded £464,665 by a High Court Judge because her life ‘changed irrevocably’ in 2012 in Northern Ireland; a driver of a Landrover and cattle trailer crashed, at high speed, into the car in which she was passenger.

Ms Sands’ friend, Michelle Hulford, 21, from Luton, who had been sitting beside her, was fatally injured and died at the scene.

Left with ‘a highly significant disability’, Ms Sands’ injuries destroyed her dream of a career in the forces and teaching outdoor sports, the judge heard.

An ‘accomplished sailor’ who had recently competed in a world championship, she was preparing for the British championship, in Exmouth, when she was seriously injured.

Injuries to her shoulder, back and abdomen mean Ms Sands, whose family live in Camperdown Terrace, can no longer sail competitively.

After the accident, she suffered flashbacks and nightmares and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

She successfully sued the driver of the Landrover - who admitted liability for the accident - seeking damages for personal injuries, pain, suffering, and loss of amenity. She also claimed damages for loss of earnings and the cost of care and treatment.

Awarding compensation, Justice Colton, of the Queen’s Bench Division, said Ms Sands’ evidence was ‘honest, understated and stoical’. He said she was an ‘admirable individual’.

The judge said: “I came to the view that this accident has had a life-changing impact on her.”

He added: “She was in the course of preparing for the national championships, and indeed was unable to do so because of the accident.

“This was a particular disappointment to her because they were being hosted in her home town.

“She had been planning this for a couple of years and, indeed, her own crew used her boat without her.”

Justice Colton told the court: “I accept fully that her inability to continue sailing at her pre-accident level has been a devastating blow to her.”

At the time of the crash, Ms Sands had been about to enter her final year at Bath University.

She was visiting her then-boyfriend’s family, in Northern Ireland, when the vehicle she was travelling in was hit head on by a Landrover being driven by Stephen Hamilton.

In the car with Ms Sands was her boyfriend, his mother, his niece and Ms Sands’ friend, Ms Hulford, who was visiting; the group had been returning from the airport to pick her up.

Ms Hulford died at the scene. Ms Sands was trapped in the car with her friend until the emergency services arrived.

After emergency surgery for multiple internal injuries, Ms Sands was left ‘completely immobile’ for almost a week.

On discharge from hospital, she faced four months of wearing a specialist spinal jacket because of the ‘significant trauma’ to her back. The crash left her with difficulties sitting, bending and walking. She can no longer sail competitively.

The court heard that after the accident, Ms Sands also suffered flashbacks and nightmares, extreme anxiety, panic attacks and guilt at the death of her friend. She had difficulty sleeping due to seeing and reliving the accident ‘nearly every day for the first six months’.

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