Unusual car accident claim puts judge’s skills to the test

Date: Jun 19, 2018

Establishing who is at fault for car accident injuries isn’t always easy.

For example, what if a passenger is hurt while trying to prevent a crash from occurring? Who is legally driving the car if someone other than the driver grabs the steering wheel? And are people still entitled to damages under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act in these circumstances?

These were questions posed to District Court Judge David Wilson, who needed to untangle some complex statutory issues when ruling on a recent car accident compensation claim. The case was unusual and the result could set a precedent for similar incidents in NSW.

What caused the car accident injuries?

The plaintiff, a driving instructor, was conducting the defendant’s driving exam. As the defendant navigated a roundabout, she drifted into the wrong lane, causing the plaintiff to reach over and wrestle the wheel from her to avoid a collision.

While the vehicle emerged from the roundabout unscathed, the plaintiff suffered a herniated disc in his back that impinged on a nerve root. He claimed the injury happened when he leant over to grab the steering wheel from the defendant.

Despite avoiding a car accident, the plaintiff believed he should receive compensation for his injuries due to the defendant’s negligent driving.

Was the defendant driving at the time of the injury?

The defendant’s lawyers argued the plaintiff was actually the driver of the vehicle when the injury occurred, which could potentially absolve her from liability.

Her legal counsel used a Western Australian case where the driver of a car successfully won compensation when a passenger grabbed the steering wheel and caused a crash. At the moment another individual takes hold of the wheel, they are arguably the driver of the vehicle for legal purposes.

However, Judge Wilson ruled the defendant was in control of the vehicle at the time of the plaintiff’s injury. Indeed, the plaintiff only hurt himself in the process of trying to prevent an accident happening.
The judge found the defendant negligent and liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, awarding nearly $595,000 compensation, including $225,000 for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.

Am I entitled to car accident compensation in NSW?

You may be eligible for compensation if you are injured under a wide array of circumstances in a traffic accident, including incidents where you are partly to blame.

In fact, you don’t have to be involved in a serious collision to make a claim; even relatively minor injuries such as whiplash may lead to time off work and short-term medical costs.

To find out whether you should pursue car accident compensation in NSW, please get in touch with Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

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