Woman’s car accident compensation reduced on appeal

Date: Jun 08, 2018

A woman who was involved in a major car accident has seen her award of damages halved on appeal due to contributory negligence. She had been celebrating her birthday at her parents’ house and was driving home with her mother and three daughters in the vehicle when the collision occurred.

The plaintiff’s mother and one of her daughters died in the crash, while her other daughters suffered severe spinal injuries and catastrophic brain damage, respectively. The woman was also seriously hurt in the incident and was released from hospital after two weeks.

She was awarded $700,000 in car accident compensation after convincing a NSW District Court judge that the collision was another driver’s fault. However, the defendant launched an appeal to argue that the crash had occurred because of the woman’s negligent driving.

How did the accident happen?

The details of the crash are murky due to multiple differences between witness statements. Nevertheless, a few details were uncontested:

  • The plaintiff and the defendant were both driving south on Wallgrove Road;
  • A road sweeper and an escort vehicle were travelling slowly on the same road, positioned halfway on the shoulder and partly in the eastern-most lane of three lanes (lane 1); and
  • Both the plaintiff and the defendant were travelling at 90 kilometres per hour (kph), which was 20 km above the speed limit.

In the original trial, the plaintiff claimed she was originally in lane 1 but merged into lane 2 to pass the road sweeper and the escort. She said the defendant was already travelling in lane 2 and had attempted to overtake her by moving into lane 3 and back again, misjudging the manoeuvre and hitting the side of her vehicle. This allegedly caused her to swerve to the left and collide with the sweeper.

The defendant said he was travelling in lane 2 when the plaintiff tried to merge into his path from lane 1, hitting the side of his vehicle and veering back into the sweeper.

Trial verdict and appeal

The judge in the first trial supported the plaintiff’s version of events, which the driver of the escort vehicle also supported, but three appellate judges overturned the ruling.

They said the most likely cause of the crash was the plaintiff merging into lane 2 too early, causing the defendant to swerve into lane 3 to avoid a crash. However, the judges believed the defendant then tried to move back into lane 2 too quickly and collided with the plaintiff, resulting in the accident.

As the incident was deemed both drivers’ fault, the judges halved the plaintiff’s original award of damages to $350,000. While the woman’s payout has been lowered, she will still receive crucial financial support for medical bills, care costs and other expenses relating to her injuries.

If you would like to learn more about how car accident compensation works in NSW, please contact a member of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers today.

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