A woman who suffered physical and psychological problems following a car accident has been awarded $85,566 for damages, although an appeal for more was turned down.
The incident occurred in 2010 when the plaintiff was working as a traffic controller. She had been directing vehicles along Thomas Street in Ultimo when the defendant, who admitted liability, struck her and injured her left hand and forearm.
There was considerable diversions between the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s assessments of damages. The woman argued she continues to experience a condition called complex regional pain syndrome and that pre-existing depressive episodes became worse.
Her legal counsel therefore calculated damages totalling $1.7 million. The defence’s team argued that the woman’s conditions were largely resolved by the time the case was heard, suggesting $100,000 compensation at most.
Original case for car accident injuries
Following a “lengthy and careful” ruling, the judge decided to award the woman $85,566 in damages, leaning more towards the defendant’s presentation of the evidence.
Several issues went against the plaintiff. Firstly, the woman appeared in court holding her left arm protectively against her midriff with the hand closed. The judge said she gave indications that she could not use the arm at all.
However, covert surveillance recordings of the woman showed she used the arm regularly and freely. The judge also described the plaintiff’s witness box demeanour as “very poor”.
He surmised that the woman was willing to provide untruthful answers if it would advance her case. Her accounts of her pre-accident working hours were also found to contradict the evidence her employer provided. Furthermore, doctors believed she intentionally underperformed in cognitive tests.
Nevertheless, the woman received $20,000 for past economic losses, more than $45,000 for past out-of-pocket expenses and $16,200 for past personal and domestic assistance spending.
Injury compensation appeal
The woman decided to appeal the amount she received in injury compensation, claiming there were errors in judgement in the original hearing.
Her legal counsel attempted to argue that the defendant had failed to show evidence that her psychiatric problems had resolved prior to the trial. It was suggested the onus was on the defendant to do so.
The appellant also said the original judge did not place enough importance on her post-accident hospitalisations. Specifically, there was a suggestion the woman may suffer from a borderline personality disorder that could result in severe, but episodic, periods of depression.
However, the appellate judges felt there was little merit to the appeal and rejected it on all counts. The woman must now pay costs.