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Widow and children of victim in Donegal road crash reach €1m settlement with driver

Margaret McLaughlin’s 38-year-old husband John was the victim of a crash in Co Donegal in 2017.

Image: Graham Hughes/RollingNews.ie

THE FAMILY OF a Donegal man killed by a drunk driver has reached a settlement of €1m in their claims for damages against the motorist who caused the fatal collision.

The High Court has approved the award in a legal action taken by Margaret McLaughlin whose husband, John (38) was the victim of a crash which occurred at Strandhead, Malin, Co Donegal on February 20, 2017.

The approval of the court was required as some of McLaughlin’s statutory dependants – his children – are minors.

Margaret McLaughlin of The Links, Greencastle, Co Donegal sued the driver Aaron McColgan (29), who left the scene of the fatal crash, on behalf of herself and her three children.

McColgan, a father of three of Culkeeny, Malin, Co Donegal was convicted of dangerous driving causing the death of John McLaughlin at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court last November and sentenced to three and a half years in prison as well as being banned from driving for 15 years.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said John McLaughlin’s parents and his siblings, as statutory dependents under the legislation, had to their credit waived their entitlement to share in any damages recovered in the proceedings.

Mr Justice Simons said the €1m settlement was intended to compensate McLaughlin’s widow and her three children for the mental distress suffered as a result of his death and for the loss of future dependency.

The judge said there had been a significant divergence between actuarial reports used to calculate the award based on the likely future earnings of John McLaughlin if he had survived as one was based on an annual salary of €40,800 and another on €75,000.

He noted the deceased had worked as an accountant with E & I Engineering group and had taken on a new role for a trial period at the time of his death which would have led to a substantial salary increase if the trial had been successful.

However, Mr Justice Simons said the settlement figure of €1m seemed reasonable in the circumstances as it was unlikely a higher sum would be awarded if the case had gone to trial.

He noted there was also a risk a lower amount could be awarded.

Mr Justice Simons apportioned the award with €669,593 being awarded to Margaret McLaughlin and sums of €80,861, €90,867, and €99,431 to the couple’s three children.

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The judge explained the higher sum for the victim’s widow reflected the fact that her loss of dependency was for life where it is assumed the children would become financially independent when they reach the age of 23 years.

He praised Margaret McLaughlin’s “selfless and generous” decision to state her preference that money which she could have claimed for caring for her children while they are minors was paid into court for their individual benefit to be paid to them on reaching 18.

Mr Justice Simons said McLaughlin would in essence be running the household from her own share of the overall settlement.

“This will give the children a significant advantage as they embark upon adulthood and will allow them, for example, to pursue third level education,” he added.

Mr Justice Simons said the distribution of the solatium – a statutory sum allowed as compensation for the mental distress caused by the wrongful death of another which had a maximum award of €35,000 – had to be limited to McLaughlin and her two older children as the couple’s youngest child had only been born after his father’s death.  

Legal costs were also awarded to the claimant.

About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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