A court decision to award nearly $1 million to a man who suffered severe injuries as a result of a workplace accident has been reversed.
The man was driving a prime mover with a trailer attached when the vehicle capsized navigating a left-hand turn. The trailer contained over 20 tonnes of steel coils.
According to court documents, the manufacturer had recently begun adding an additional extra timber runner underneath the steel coils. The company failed to pass this information onto the plaintiff’s company, a logistics firm, meaning previous safety guidelines for loading and transporting the coils on trailers were out of date.
As a result of the accident, the driver sustained substantial injuries to his neck and shoulder, which required surgery. These were classified as permanent injuries, with ongoing stiffness and pain that is unlikely to go away. He also suffered psychological distress and other smaller injuries that eventually healed.
The man successfully argued in front of a Common Law Division judge that the manufacturer was responsible for a breach in care, winning $926,000 in damages.
Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal at NSW Supreme Court has since reversed the decision, after the manufacturer and their insurance company claimed the accident occurred largely because the employee had been driving too quickly.
Speed becomes a factor
In the original case, the judge said the speed at which the man was travelling had no bearing on the vehicle capsizing. However, this was challenged in the subsequent hearing.
The manufacturer contended that the prime mover would not have tipped unless it was travelling above 75 kilometres per hour – 5 kilometres above the speed limit at the sit. Experts substantiated this claim.
In addition, the first judge ruled that the trailer capsized because the steel coils shifted due to inadequate loading, which included the poor installation of wedges to secure the load.
On appeal, the manufacturer relied on specialist engineers, who said the speed at which the load would topple was higher than the speed at which the trailer would roll, making the loading a redundant issue.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the company and ruled in its favour, with the plaintiff “held entirely responsible for his injuries”.
However, despite losing on appeal, the man could still receive compensation through other avenues, such as a total and permanent disability claim. TPDs are when an individual is unable to return to their jobs in the same capacity at which they were previously able.
If you are unsure what compensation you could be eligible for, please contact a no-win, no-fee personal injuries law firm in NSW today.