Our client Carlos had recently received an award in excess of $450,000 by way of compensation for injuries he sustained in a car accident.
Our client who at the time of the accident was a taxi driver was also working part time as a draftsmen. The relevant insurer, NRMA, failed and/or didn’t want to appreciate that a person having sustained a whiplash injury in a car accident could have sustained significant injury which impacted his capacity to earn a living. Carlos did sustain whiplash injuries to the neck and upper back region as well as bruising to his head which left a degree of concussion when his head hit the side window following the impact of the accident. Carlos attended upon Vrege Kolokossian accredited specialist in car accident injury claims at our Penrith Office and after having been advised of his rights to pursue a claim for compensation provided us with instructions to proceed in accordance with our no win no fee cost policy.
Our client received treatment through his GP and was referred by way of a follow up in relation to the concussion injury and also undertook various physiotherapy and other treatment to assist in getting him back to work. To his credit he attempted to go back to work and did some driving however working as a taxi driver he found that there was limited opportunity to earn an income working 3 to 4 hours a day. Our client continued to suffer from headaches and pain in the neck both of which impacted his ability to drive and concentrate.
Our client attended upon his doctor had further scans, neurological testing and was certified to go back to light duties work. The fact that our client was over 55 years of age didn’t assist him in finding employment. The insurer, NRMA, as it has always been known to do, denied the severity of our client’s claim and failed to see that Carlos was a genuine victim of a car accident. His life was turned upside down. He was not able to return to work and whilst we submitted to them that he was entitled to receive adequate and fair compensation they did not see it the value in our client’s claim.
Having a specialised compensation firm like Gerard Malouf & Partners on your side certainly assisted Carlos. Procedurally we submitted all the relevant documentation in support of our client’s claim. There was a contest as to whether our client’s injury would exceed the 10% impairment threshold as is required in car accident compensation claims in New South Wales. In such instances where there is a dispute the matter is referred to the Motor Accidents Authority who authorised an independent medical assessor to determine whether the claimant’s injuries exceed the 10% threshold. The relevance of this issue for motor vehicle accident victims is that if you get over the 10% threshold you are automatically entitled to receive compensation for pain and suffering.
Unfortunately for Carlos his injuries did not get over the 10% threshold. This however did not preclude him from claiming past and future economic loss and past and future medical treatment expenses.
It was always our submission to the insurer, NRMA, that our client had been working full time both as a taxi driver and also as a draftsman. We proceeded to a settlement conference and the insurer was not prepared to convey any offer in excess of $200,000.00. It was our advice to our client that the insurer was undervaluing the claim and in accordance with our advice we proceeded to prepare the matter to go to the Motor Accidents Authority for an assessment hearing.
Once all the procedural elements were dealt with the matter went before an experienced CARS Assessor. The Assessor found that our client was an upstanding worker and accepted his evidence. He accepted that our client worked full time in the building industry as a draftsman however as a result of the downturn in that industry took up working as a taxi driver approximately 1 to 1½ years before the accident occurred. The Assessor, Mr Curtis, accepted our client as a witness of truth and accepted that he was making genuine attempts with regards to trying to rehabilitate himself and get back into the work force.
In support of our client’s claim we gathered all the relevant documents both his earnings as a taxi driver and those earnings from working as a draftsman and even on a part time basis. We arranged for one of our forensic accountants to prepare an assessment calculating his average earnings and forecasting those into the future.
Prior to the matter proceeding to an Assessment Hearing we had advised our client that he should make attempts to try and get back in the work force. The medical evidence made it clear that he could not go back to work as a driver but he did receive advice that he should make attempts to at least try and go back to part time draftsman work. Following our advice our client proceeded to prepare pamphlets and circulate and place advertisements in local papers with the ultimate purpose of trying to secure work.
At the Assessment Hearing further attempts were made to try and settle the claim however the insurer, NRMA through their solicitors, failed to convey any reasonable offers and on that basis we advised our client to proceed to the hearing.
The Assessment Hearing was an informal hearing before an experienced assessor. It is not a Court hearing as such and the evidence is taken in a room. The assessor has an active role whereby he asks questions directly. In his award the Claims Assessor provided in his reasons an allowance for past wage loss on the basis that the claimant was not able to return to work, made a generous allowance for future wage loss on the basis that our client had at least another 6 to 7 years of employment before him and noted the fact that he would not be able to return to full time work notwithstanding the genuine efforts he had made.
We had sought our client’s instructions to try and resolve the matter and our client would have been agreeable to settling the claim for an amount of approximately $400,000. NRMA’s failure to be reasonable in negotiation process worked against them as the CARS Assessor found in favour of our client and awarded him compensation for his car accident injury claim in excess of $450,000.
Whilst we at Gerard Malouf & Partners pride ourselves on our ability to try and negotiate matters, in some circumstances where the insurer and in particular insurers such as NRMA failed to reasonably assess our client’s injuries and provide for adequate compensation we have no hesitation in advising our client not to accept their offer and proceed to the informal assessment hearing conducted through the Motor Accidents Authority. A genuine victim of a car accident claim who has made attempts to rehabilitate him or herself and is genuine in the evidence as provided will usually be accepted and receive a reasonable award in their favour.
This was the case in Carlos’ claim which was another victory in terms of car accident victims. It is for that reason that clients whether they are in the Penrith region or Western Suburbs or Sydney generally need to ensure that they qualify specialised solicitors who are passionate about getting fair and just compensation for their clients.
Should you require assistance please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners to advise you and assist you with your claim.