In the case of Rook v Crofts Judge McGill SC in the District Court of Queensland awarded the plaintiff almost $600,000 in damages. The plaintiff, who dreamed of being a commercial fisherman was injured in a car accident.

Car Accident Awards Future Fisherman $600,000

The accident occurred on 4 August 2013 on the Bruce Highway. The plaintiff was driving a car with two children in the rear seat. He came to an obstruction on the highway, so he braked abruptly. A motorbike slammed into the back of the car driven by the plaintiff.

Liability was not an issue at the trial. The only issue in dispute was the quantum of the plaintiff’s claim for damages. In other words, the amount of money the Court can award the plaintiff was in question, not who was at fault in the accident. The Court heard the case in a three day trial in June of 2018.

Fisherman Injured in Car Accident Suffered Ongoing Pain

After the accident the plaintiff experienced neck pain, pain between the shoulder blades, neck stiffness, and emotional distress. Luckily, there was no fracture in his cervical spine. He was variously diagnosed as having “whiplash”. The plaintiff’s neck pain and pain between the shoulder blades was ongoing. He also developed upper back pain and lower back pain. This pain was associated with the task of pulling big fish as a fisherman. The plaintiff had suffered from migraines from before the accident, but he claimed the accident made them worse.

In February 2017, the plaintiff presented to his General Practitioner with fractured ribs, as well as chest and neck pain, as a result an assault earlier that month. The assault raised a question of causation as to the ongoing effects of the car accident on the plaintiff’s life. This meant that there could potentially have been a reduction in the quantum of damages payable to the plaintiff. This highlights the issues surrounding multiple injuries from different causes.

However, in this case, His Honour found that the neck and back pain from the accident was an ongoing problem for the plaintiff. His Honour found that the pain was attributable to the car accident. In April 2017, the plaintiff was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had nightmares about the accident and his relationship with his wife deteriorated to the point of separation in 2016. At the trial, His Honour noted that the plaintiff was extremely emotionally distressed.

Fisherman Injured in Car Accident Prevent from Working

The Court considered the plaintiff’s work history. He had previously worked a number of jobs which included: professional football, working at the meat works, as a delivery driver, and as a fisherman. Since the accident the plaintiff had experienced pain whilst working as a shed hand and at the meat works. Consequently, because of the accident he was struggling with aspects of his job at the meat works. The plaintiff wanted to become a commercial fisherman. However, he claimed that the car accident had dashed his hopes of that coming to fruition.

In his home life, the plaintiff experienced a loss of amenities. This was because he had done very little recreational fishing since the accident. His Honour considered all of the expert evidence on the plaintiff’s physical and psychiatric injuries. His Honour preferred the evidence of the plaintiff’s doctor and accepted a finding of 10% whole person impairment.

Assessing Damages for Fisherman Injured in Car Accident

Plaintiffs can recover general damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities. His Honour was conscious of the fact that the plaintiff was suffering significant ongoing pain as a result of his physical injuries, consequently his Honour awarded the plaintiff $24,300 for general damages. Plaintiffs can also recover damages for past economic loss. Past economic loss covers lost wages from the time of an accident to the time of judgment. Interest on those damages is also recoverable.

Plaintiffs can also recover lost superannuation on those lost wages. His Honour assessed the plaintiff’s past economic loss and determined that there was no evidence to justify the plaintiff’s mere assertion that he had the capacity to earn $900 per week. Furthermore, His Honour awarded $74,178 for past economic loss on the basis of an earning capacity of between $600 and $800 per week, and $7,074 for past superannuation. His Honour awarded $4,354 interest on the plaintiff’s past economic loss.

Future Economic Loss Awarded Based on not Becoming Fisherman

Plaintiffs are allowed to recover damages for future economic loss, that is, on simple terms, wages that will be lost looking into the future. Plaintiffs are also allowed to recover damages for lost future superannuation, that is, superannuation that they would have accrued if the accident had not happened. His Honour assessed the plaintiff’s future economic loss and noted that the plaintiff could have become a successful commercial fisherman and made a lot of money. However, His Honour also noted that the plaintiff may have been a fisherman who barely scraped a living from the sea and instead carried on with the work because he enjoyed the lifestyle and fishing was in his blood.

His Honour considered that because of the accident, the plaintiff’s earning capacity was going to be lost progressively more and more. After applying the law for calculating future economic loss, which considers the time value theory of money and the vicissitudes of life, His Honour considered $265,000 appropriate for future economic loss. The Court awared the plaintiff $30,024 for future lost superannuation on the basis of the award of future economic loss.

$600,000 Awarded to Future Fisherman

Plaintiffs can recover special damages for medication, treatment, and travelling to and from treatment, as a result of their injuries. In this case, the parties agreed special damages be at $5,000. His Honour awarded that amount as well as $291 interest on those damages.

In some cases plaintiffs can recover damages for gratuitous services, those being care provided by friends or family members for free. An example might be: assistance with the preparation of meals from a spouse or family member. The plaintiff may not have paid their spouse or family member for the services, but may be able to recover damages anyway. Plaintiffs can claim for past gratuitous services assessed from the accident to the date of judgment. Plaintiffs can also claim gratuitously services looking into the future. The Court awarded the plaintiff $14,720 for past gratuitous services and for future gratuitous services, $142,000.

In some cases plaintiffs can recover damages for paid care. In this case the plaintiff claimed damages for paid care and the Court awarded $26,500 for care he would receive in the future.

This case highlights the various heads of damage available to plaintiffs. Whilst the law in this area is complicated, which leads to disputes between parties as to the correct amount of damages payable, there is no substitute for good evidence. Documents, videos, and photos are far more durable pieces of evidence than relying on human memory alone.

Rook v Crofts [2018] QDC 184

Car Injury Fisherman awarded Damages