A WIDOW who won a £1.3m legal battle over her husband’s death claimed she had to take action after council bosses treated her with ‘absolute defiance’.
Katrina Ronald, 55, took action against Perth & Kinross Council after husband William was fatally struck by a bin lorry while cycling.
The incident sparked a four-year dispute after the local authority insisted the cyclist was 100% to blame for the accident and his own death.
But last month Katrina and her three daughters won a rare civil trial after a jury ruled the bin lorry driver did shoulder blame and that the Ronald family should be awarded damages.
Katrina from Kelty, Fife now hopes her public battle – and victory – will inspire other victims, survivors and bereaved families to never give up in their pursuit for answers.
She said: “I honestly couldn’t care less about compensation as I have my own means to live – I raised a legal action to get answers.
“I honestly think the council would have done more if their lorry killed a dog instead of my husband.”
William, 46, died on 25 May 2018 near the village of Cleish in Fife after he rounded a blind bend on his bicycle and collided with a bin lorry.
The former RAF veteran suffered serious injuries and was trapped under the vehicle but he passed away despite the efforts of medics.
Police investigated the crash but prosecutors ruled out any criminal action against the lorry driver or Council.
Katrina said this decision then sparked a wall of silence from officials on all sides.
She said: “I felt like everyone was saying William, someone who devoted his life to his country, didn’t matter.
“With no prosecution the council dug their heels in, treated us with absolute defiance and basically said ‘Your husband is 100% to blame so go away’.
“Councils, police and fiscals… all the communication dried up. They reached their own conclusions and that was that.
“It made me sick with anger but instead of feeling brow-beaten and rejected it actually fired me up more.”
In 2019, one year after the tragedy, Katrina teamed up with Digby Brown Solicitors and began building a legal case.
Over time, negotiations with Perth & Kinross Council broke down – on one occasion the Council’s insurance company even failed to attend a scheduled meeting which only inflamed the sense of defiance.
Katrina’s civil action was later escalated to a jury trial at the Court of Session in Edinburgh – the highest civil court in the country.
After hearing evidence for four days jurors concluded that while William did play a part in the accident they agreed the bin lorry driver was definitely responsible as well.
William was deemed to be 58% due to taking the bend too quickly with the bin lorry driver being 42% responsible due to their positioning on the road.
The percentage of blame – known as contributory negligence – means Katrina and her three daughters Eden, Harmony and Honey will see their £1.3m compensation deducted by 58% to reflect William’s portion of responsibility, leaving them with around £550,000.
Katrina added: “I could not accept that someone would lay 100% of the blame at William’s feet so for me the court case was not about proving William was right but about proving the council was wrong.
“And we did that. We now have a black and white ruling to prove the council was wrong in their argument and I feel vindicated for that.
“Bigger picture though, Perth & Kinross Council need to take a long, hard look at themselves and their policies around dealing with bereaved families because the way they treated us was frankly inhuman and is actually what sparked this whole process.
“From day one they didn’t show a thread of empathy but I wasn’t going to just meekly bow down because me, the girls and William deserved better.
“My youngest daughter, who was seven-years-old when her dad died, wanted to know the specifics of how he died.
“I didn’t want to be in a position where my only answer is ‘I don’t know’ and I certainly didn’t want to be in a position where I had to tell her ‘Well, I could have tried to get answers but I didn’t try’.
“To anyone else out there who has lost someone or is caught up in these kinds of cases – keep going.
“Ignore the naysayers. Ignore every wee thought that tells you it’s too hard or it’s not worth it because it is.
“Take whatever pain and anger you have and use it to motivate you and sharpen your thinking.
“You’ll get the truth and answers you need. You’ll get your justice.”
Innes Laing, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors in Kirkcaldy, led the legal action that helped the Ronald family secure answers.
He said: “Civil trials are extremely rare as most cases are settled out of court via negotiations – I think less than two-per-cent of personal injury actions actually end up in front of a sheriff or judge.
“I’m genuinely moved by the sustained drive, strength, dignity and patience shown by Katrina and her children because it’s not easy to hold fast for so long.
“Katrina is also completely right – all bereaved families deserve answers and empathy and I hope others out there, from victims to responsible third parties, take note of the lessons from this rare but extremely important legal action.”