Woman seeks car accident compensation for psychological injuries

Date: May 18, 2015

The Supreme Court of New South Wales has heard a case in which a woman is seeking car accident compensation for psychological injuries sustained during an off-road collision. The incident occurred on December 4 2007, when the woman claims she was forced to veer off the road to avoid collision with an oncoming truck.

At the time, the truck was apparently travelling across most of the width of the road, leading the plaintiff to move out of the way. This caused her to strike a number of guide posts, and she also narrowly missed colliding with a tree.

The truck driver was never found, but the plaintiff nevertheless brought claims against a nominal defendant. She was seen by the Medical Assessment Service, which was responsible for determining whether the claimant had suffered whole person impairment as a result of psychological injury.

Under the terms of the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999, the psychological injury caused by the incident must be higher than 10 per cent. Only in this situation can damaged be recovered for economic loss sustained as a direct result of the accident.

Following the assessment, it was decided that the plaintiff had suffered from mixed anxiety and depressed mood, as well as chronic adjustment disorder. On this basis, she did not meet the 10 per cent criteria required under the relevant legislation.

The case was consequently referred to the Motor Accidents Authority of New South Wales (MAA), which enlisted the services of the Medical Review Panel. It carried out an entirely new assessment and also certified that the plaintiff's psychological problems did not exceed 10 per cent.

The MAA appointed an insurance company on behalf of the nominal defendant, which appeared before the appeal alongside various others. The Review Panel analysed the case and concluded that the plaintiff may have demonstrated some of these health problems prior to the accident. She was diagnosed with adjustment disorder with anxious and depressed mood back in 2004.

However, the panel noted that the issue of causation had not been previously considered. This takes into account what led to the worsening of these health conditions, even if they had been present in the plaintiff for a number of years.

The presiding judge therefore established that she should be entitled to the financial relief she has sought for the past few years. A further hearing will take place to determine exactly what these costs might be.

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