Inter Law – accident claim lawsuit

Next month, Paul and Andrea Gallagher will pack their suitcases and leave spring-time England for a 15-hour journey to the Bahamas in what they hope will be the final leg in their journey for justice as to why their two-year-old son died in a horrific speedboat crash six years ago.

But for the Gallaghers, this will be no holiday. Instead of spending their days on the island’s beaches, they’ll be heading for the bustling capital Nassau and the Bahamian Supreme Court. There they will sit in a stuffy courtroom of the Bahamian Supreme Court in Nassau for two weeks, hoping they can obtain justice against the three men that they believe killed him through negligence. The driver of the boat, James Bain, and his employers, boat company owners Clifford Nottage and Evangeless Williamson.

This will be the climax to a long, emotionally exhausting battle for the truth which has cost the Gallaghers’ their £50,000 life savings and which they say has been deliberately obstructed by the Bahamian government and the island police force.

The authorities’ main concern has been, they say, to protect the booming tourist trade of the Bahamas rather than discover why an innocent child was killed on one of their beaches. Andrea says: “This has cost us everything: our life savings, our business, even our peace of mind. But we had no choice. We had to do everything in our power to ensure the men responsible for our little boy’s death faced justice.”

No legal aid has been provided to allow them to pursue their accident claim and they have had to rely purely on their own resources to fight for the justice they need.

Paul says: “It is not about vengeance or compensation. We just want justice for our son. It won’t bring him back but we hope it might bring us, and our other children, some closure.”

The accident occurred in 2002, when a 19ft speedboat broke free and went out of control on the beach upon which the family and Paul jnr were playing. It ploughed into the sand at high speed causing horrific fatal head injuries to Paul jnr, who died five days later in a Nassau hospital. The family stayed in the Bahamas for three days after Paul’s death and he was finally flown back to Britain in a tiny white coffin. But the nightmare really began once they were home. After six months back in the UK the couple had heard nothing and began to get concerned. They tried to contact the Bahamian government and police force. But no one returned their calls. They wrote 15 letters, which went unanswered.

The couple were not invited to attend the 2003 inquest in the Bahamas into Paul’s death. Only after making their own enquiries did they find out when it was being held and they paid ВЈ5,000 to go in view that their statements would be crucial. The first hearing was adjourned and the couple were forced to fly out to the Bahamas to give evidence again a few months later, again paying for themselves.

This, hopefully final hearing is the first time that anyone has faced any charges for the incident and despite spending £50,000, any compensation award won’t replace the satisfaction of having brought those responsible to justice. It just shows how expensive and difficult justice can be if an accident happens abroad and holiday insurance seldom covers such long drawn out, but admirable quests for the truth.

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