‘Near death’ police crash victim fights for payout
14:11 17 October 2012
Motorist still awaits closure seven months after terrifying ‘Sticklepath Stones’ collision.
AN innocent driver who suffered a ‘near-death’ experience in a collision with a police car says he is still waiting for an insurance pay-out more than six months after the incident.
Bruce Clarke said it was a ‘miracle’ that he survived the smash at the Sticklepath Stones roundabout in Barnstaple on March 26 this year.
Mr Clarke, 60, was left hanging by his seatbelt for an hour-and-a-half as rescuers battled to free him from his overturned car after he collided with a marked patrol car responding to an emergency call.
He said he was visited by apologetic officers soon after the incident and given verbal assurances that the matter would be settled within 12 weeks.
But seven months later, Mr Clarke has yet to receive a single penny from Devon and Cornwall Police, despite paying out thousands of pounds for a new car, as well as dental and other medical treatment.
He said the incident had left him and partner Audrey Phillips financially crippled and that they were now struggling to pay their rent.
“They told me it would be all done and dusted in 12 weeks,” he told the Gazette.
“I’ve paid out £2,800 for new teeth, £150 for new glasses and what I paid for my new car.
“At the time it was no problem as I thought it was all going to be settled in a few months. But now, we’re paying the rent by the skin of our teeth and Audrey has used up all her savings.”
The couple, who both cared for late partners and met through a dating website in 2011, plan to get married on March 9 next year but say their plans are now in doubt due to the ongoing insurance issues.
“We booked a reception at Castle Hill and a honeymoon cruise in the Arctic Circle well before the accident but the final bills are due in January,” said Mr Clarke.
“We could lose our deposits; we could lose the wedding; we could lose the car; we could lose the house.”
Mr Clarke said he was still receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress brought on by the accident, which he says has turned his life ‘upside down’.
“Every time I lie on my pillow I can see the crash and try to stop it,” he said.
“It was a near death experience. I was sure I was dead; I’d said my good-byes.”
Ms Phillips, 54, said her partner had ‘completely changed’ following the accident.
“He starts something and doesn’t finish it, chucks stuff away that he shouldn’t chuck away,” she said.
“He’s like someone who’s been on a high and can’t sit still. It’s been tough on our relationship.”
Mr Clarke added: “I’ve lost the plot and I can’t forget about the crash as I’m financially unstable because of it – I just can’t let it go until it’s all settled.
“This year has been a nightmare – I wish I could just take it back and start again.”
Inspector Roger Bartlett, said: “I met with Mr Clarke in the hospital the day after the accident and I am disappointed that we are still in a position where we haven’t had closure.
“We wouldn’t want Mr Clarke to suffer on-going upset over this and hope that we can reach a quick resolution. But this is now out of police hands and is a matter for our insurers.”
A spokesperson for Gallagher Bassett, which is dealing with the claim on behalf of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “Mr Clarke has appointed legal representatives and we are liaising directly with them in terms of settling his claim.
“It’s in the hands of his legal advisors and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on any aspects of the claim.”