Court gets complex in blameless accident case

Date: Sep 11, 2018

Pointing the finger in a blameless accident can sometimes be an infeasible task – even in front of a judge. This was demonstrated in a recent case bought before the NSW District Court.

The case

On 11 February 2016, the plaintiff was driving a heavy duty transport truck owned by his employer along the Hume freeway in NSW. Whilst driving in the left side lane, the front driver’s side tyre blew out unexpectedly, causing him to veer across the right-hand lane. At the time of the blow out, a car was travelling on the driver’s right-hand side in the adjacent lane. With no way to control the vehicle, the plaintiff feared that either himself or the other driver would be seriously injured or killed.

Thankfully, the other driver accelerated and the truck gradually ground to a halt, eliminating the risk of collision. However, since the accident, the plaintiff claims to have suffered psychiatric injury.

Following the incident, the plaintiff sued the third party insurer of the vehicle under the blameless accident provisions of the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999. The employer of the plaintiff was not involved in this claim.

The defence

On 3 July 2018, the defendant (the third party insurer) denied the plaintiff’s claim on the following bases:

  • The accident was not a blameless accident.
  • The plaintiff did not qualify as a person who can claim for pure mental harm under Pt 3 of the Civil Liability Act 2002.

For the blameless accident provisions in the Act, the court found that the plaintiff was not entitled to recover any damages for his alleged psychiatric injury. This was because the driver could not place fault on the owner of the truck. Furthermore, section 3A of the Act states that it only applies in respect of the death or injury of a person that is caused by the fault of the owner.

The decision

After claiming the motor accident was caused by poor driving by the plaintiff, the court dismissed the defendant’s statements due to inadequate evidence. Furthermore, they rejected the defendant’s submission that the only kind of claim for mental shock are those governed by s 30 of the Civil Liability Act 2002. The court felt that the plaintiff was entitled to damages for the pure mental harm accrued after witnessing the other driver put in such a great deal of peril. The defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff’s cost of the motion.

Cases like the above prove that court can get complex. Increase your chances of success by enlisting the help of the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers. Get in touch today and see how we can help.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts or email your enquiry.