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A 24-year-old motor accident victim has been denied future economic loss by the District Court of Queensland. Judge Barlow QC, awarded approximately $35,000 in damages to a 24-year-old woman, injured in a car accident in 2015.

The Motor Accident

The motor accident occurred on the Pacific Motorway at Springwood. The victim’s vehicle was stationary on the motorway, due to the heavy traffic, when the at-fault vehicle crashed into her.  The victim alleged she suffered neck and back injuries, along with psychological trauma.  Allianz admitted liability for the accident, as the CTP insurer of the driver of the at-fault vehicle. Allianz admitted a soft tissue injury to the neck but denied all other injuries.

The victim attended several doctors and physios for treatment and maintained her pain continued for many years. In 2017, she had a baby, and lived with her partner, mother and father, who all helped care for her child. In 2018, her doctor diagnosed her with Graves’ disease; an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism.

Motor Accident Trial

In August 2019, the victim proceeded to trial. The main issue, was the amount of compensation that should be awarded. This depended on the nature and extent of the woman’s injuries and their affect on her lifestyle. The victim produced evidence of her education, training and employment before the accident to compare with  her life after the accident.  Expert medical evidence was provided by both the victim and Allianz. There were significant differences and disagreements among the medical experts.

Motor Accident Victim’s Evidence Denied

The Court did not accept the victim’s evidence about her level of disability. As a result, they noted she had a strong tendency to exaggerate, both when consulting doctors and at trial. The victim gave various version of events, and injuries/symptoms to different medical practitioners. Consequently, Allianz surveyed the victim an produced video surveillance evidence at trial. That evidence showed the victim:

  • turning her head from side to side;
  • pushing a loaded shopping trolley; and
  • carrying and lifting her daughter;

seemingly without pain, stiffness, or discomfort. This evidence contradicted the victims own evidence about her spinal injuries. Expert medical witnesses saw the surveillance and commented that the victim displayed a much greater range of motion, than she had in her consultations. The Court heavily scrutinized these inconsistencies and considered the victim an unreliable witness. Their Honour’s found no evidence of ongoing physical impairment and noted the diagnosis of  Graves Diseases as the cause of her depression. As such, the motor accident did not cause the victims major depression and that condition could be treated.

Types of Compensation

There are various types of compensation available to victims in these sorts of cases. They include:

  • General Damages – compensation for pain a suffering.
  • Special Damages – compensation for medical expenses.
  • Past Economic Loss – compensation for lost wages since the accident.

    Motor Accident Victim Denied Future Economic Loss
    Motor Accident Victim Denied Future Economic Loss
  • Future Economic Loss – compensation for wages lost into the future because of the accident.
  • Past Lost Superannuation.
  • Past Gratuitous Care – Compensation for unpaid care provided by friends and family members to assist the the victim because of her injuries.
  • Future Gratuitous Care – Compensation for unpaid care provided int he future.
  • Future Medical Expenses.

Accordingly, for each of the above types of compensation the court awarded the following:

  • General Damages – $5,760.
  • Special Damages – $637.
  • Past Economic Loss –  $9,600 on the basis that the victim was was much more capable of working than her expert evidence suggested.
  • Interest – $194.
  • Past Lost Superannuation – $912.
  • Past Gratuitous Care – $11,375.
  • Future Gratuitous Care – $0 on the basis that the victim had substantially recovered.
  • Medical Expenses – $7,000 on the basis that although the victim had recovered from her anxiety a course of further treatment would be merited to guard against any return of that psychiatric condition.

Motor Accident Victim Denied Future Economic Loss

His Honour found, the victim did not prove she had lost any future earning capacity due to the lack of any physical or psychiatric injuries. As such, the motor accident victim was denied future economic loss. Unfortunately, for her, this type of compensation  is often the largest part of any claim for an injury by a young person, because it considers a person’s earning capacity from their age at the time of the injury to retirement.

In total the Plaintiff was awarded $35,478 in damages and judgment was entered from that amount.

Takeaways

This case highlights a number of important things to consider when making a personal injury claim. Firstly, it highlights the importance of taking a statement from a victim at the outset of any claim inquiry. This is because, that is the time when a person’s memory is fresh. Secondly, it is important not to exaggerate or provide inconsistent versions of events, injuries and symptoms. It is difficult for a court to accept a witness’ evidence where it changes over time and particularly grows in scale. Once credibility or reliability are diminished, it a difficult road for a Plaintiff to travel to a satisfactory judgment.

Behmen v Fogg [2019] QDC 231

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