All Posts By

David Ford

What Are My Rights as a Passenger Involved in a Car Crash?

It’s something millions of people do every day – probably without a second thought – but in truth, you are risking your life every time you settle into the passenger seat in a motor vehicle. That’s because there’s always a chance that the person driving the car you’re in could do something to cause an accident, or you may get caught up in a crash caused by someone else. In other words, as a passenger you have no control over what happens while you are in the car. The good news, however, is that you do have certain rights as a passenger involved in a car crash.

Although applicable laws may vary, you generally have the right to:

  • Obtain certain information, such as the names, addresses, vehicle registration numbers, driver’s licence and insurance information of all drivers involved in the accident. If you have any trouble obtaining this material directly, you can get it from the police.
  • Receive help getting to a doctor or hospital if you were hurt. Even if you aren’t in pain immediately after the accident, you should still see a doctor who can treat and document any injuries that aren’t readily apparent.
  • Get a copy of the official accident report from the police.  Ask the investigating law enforcement officer when the report will be ready and how to get your copy.
  • Refuse requests for statements after the accident from another driver’s insurance company. If you do want to make a statement, be sure to consult a qualified personal injury lawyer first.
  • Consult with a lawyer specialising in this area.

Remember:

You are required to report the accident to the police within 28 calendar days after the accident unless a police officer attended the motor accident.

If you or a loved one were hurt in a car crash when someone else was driving, it is important to consult a qualified lawyer as soon as possible. Based on his or her experience, the lawyer can do an efficient assessment of the situation to determine if the injured party has a viable claim. If so, he or she can also determine who you should take action against, and what type of action is appropriate.

In some cases, this is an easy decision. Let’s say you sustained a nasty case of whiplash when the driver of the car you were riding in stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake, causing the vehicle to jump a curb and hit a building at a high rate of speed. In these circumstances, you would simply file a claim against the driver’s insurance provider.

But what if you sustained the same injury as a passenger in an accident involving another car? Should you file a claim against the insurance provider for the driver of the car you were riding in, or the other driver’s insurance provider? In this scenario, the answer is: “it depends”. Technically, you can make claims against both. However, in a situation in which only one driver was clearly at fault, you would only make a claim against that person’s insurance company.

If both drivers are at fault, insurance companies and lawyers will assess the contributory negligence of each driver to determine how blame is allocated and how compensation should be awarded. Because insurance providers seldom agree on the key issues, this process can be lengthy and contentious. Even so, chances are that you will be duly compensated -eventually.

But what if the insurance provider for one, or both of the drivers don’t want to provide the compensation that you are entitled to, or don’t want to compensate you at all? In those circumstances, you can sue the driver(s) and/or their insurance provider(s).

Depending on your unique circumstances, you may be able to secure compensation for:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • home care;
  • alterations made to your home that are necessitated by your injury/injuries;
  • loss of past and future income due to your inability to work;
  • loss of enjoyment of life (your inability to participate in activities that you enjoyed in the past).

If you were a passenger who was injured in a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed – especially if you can’t work and the bills are piling up. Even if you’re considering legal recourse, you may not know where to start. Or perhaps you just can’t cope with the thought of dealing with insurance companies or lawyers. With this in mind, it’s important that you have someone on your side who will help you get the compensation you deserve. At BPC Lawyers, we are here for you, so contact us today.

Aviation Injuries: What You Need to Know

In this podcast, Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist, David Ford talks about the types of injuries people typically sustain on flights and what are the necessary actions the injured should do under certain circumstances.

Speaker 1:You’re listening to a BPC podcast.
Dan:You might be surprised, but the numbers of people injured on flights both in Australia and overseas is relatively high. In this context, it’s not, of course, always related to plane crashes. Well, to find out more, I’m with David Ford, a personal injury lawyer from BPC Lawyers who is an expert in aviation matters. David, what types of injuries do people typically sustain on flights?
David Ford:I think the best response to that is that, of recent times, I have been involved in a number of cases where I’ve acted, those passengers that have been scalded by hot coffee or hot tea, and sustained, in two cases, second-degree burns.
Dan:Wow, that’s fairly significant. What about other injuries typically that occur on flights? Like I’m assuming people might trip over, they might go to the lavatory, or the bathroom and slip and fall. Do you see that type of thing occurring?
David Ford:My experience in my previous cases, has been more so that a passenger has got up from their seat to either go to the bathroom, or perhaps stretch their legs, and there’s been no warning that there’s turbulence about to be encountered, and therefore the seatbelt sign has not come on. I know of one example where a lady left her seat to go to the bathroom, there was no warning as such, and the plane did hit quite severe turbulence. And as a consequence, she ended up fracturing her ankle. That case was settled.
David Ford:Each case depends, of course, on its facts. And I’ve always said to not only my clients, but also my friends and family members, it’s always wise to have your seatbelt fastened at all times, anyways, when you are on an aeroplane during the journey.
Dan:David, now, you probably should mention that these type of accidents, and potential action, legal action, that might arise, it’s always predicated on that whole basis of negligence, isn’t it? Trying to be able to prove that the airline, in this case, was negligent, and did not take the appropriate steps to minimise a foreseeable risk. Is that how it works?
David Ford:That is correct. Look, you must prove negligence. The definition, are they an accident, is that it’s an injury, must be caused by an unusual or unexpected event or happening that is external to the passenger. But yes, you must prove negligence.
David Ford:I can give a good example of another case that I had several years ago where my client was with his wife on a journey to, flight to Bangkok. They were joined by a passenger, sitting behind them, who was quite frankly, a bit intoxicated, and quite boring in his conversation. And he was drinking from his duty-free bottle of bourbon, which you’re not allowed to do on a plane. The air hostess, I think, once they observed that, but didn’t say anything to the gentlemen. Long story short, there was a fight, ensued, when they told this chap to go back to his seat and he hit my client over the head with a bottle of bourbon.
David Ford:It wasn’t a big case as such, but it was certainly resolved because that’s another example of where the airline should have taken steps to minimise the risk to that particular passenger from being assaulted by a fellow passenger. That’s another example.
Dan:David, now, listen, in relation to jurisdiction, I’m just thinking that, how does jurisdiction play out? So if you board a flight here, say in Sydney, and you’re on route to Los Angeles, and a debacle happens somewhere in-between, where does the jurisdiction lie?
David Ford:The jurisdiction lies in the fact that Australia is a [inaudible 00:04:09] to the Montreal Convention. And we have adopted that protocol, which sets out how people … Well, a number of issues in relation to air travel, but certainly, Article 17 deals with the basis upon which you can make a claim for damages. If you are, for example, I’ve had clients that were injured four hours out of Dubai, but they left Sydney, or Brisbane, or any major city in Australia, that’s where the jurisdiction comes from. Because you’re in the Montreal Convention, and the fact that you embarked, or even in the process of disembarking upon an Australian city.
David Ford:I have set out on our BPC website, a very good summary of the reason why you are entitled to make a claim pursuant to the Montreal Convention. So any client that needs to seek that information, can go to our website and see that particular article written.
Dan:Now David, in relation to more catastrophic injuries sustained in accidents, how do they play out? I’m assuming it’s the same sort of regime?
David Ford:Look it is. I was not involved to any great extent, but I did assist a solicitor who was involved in seeking compensation for parties that had family members on the MH370, the Malaysian aeroplane that disappeared in the South Pacific Ocean. And also, that particular lawyer was also involved in claims involving the MH17 Malaysian flight that was shot down over the Ukraine. Basically, those sorts of cases are what is known as similar to compensation to relatives claim, where you can claim for damages for the fact that you had a person or family member on the plane who, because of their untimely death, you’ve suffered consequentially, a financial loss.
David Ford:Those are the sort of claims that can be involved if someone therefore is, unfortunately, all those passengers were deceased. But if, as the consequence of some negligence, there was a death on the plane, that similar sort of claim can be made.
Dan:Now David, time limitations, in relation to these types of matters, is fairly strict?
David Ford:That is a very important question. The answer simply is this. You have two years, from the date of the incident, in which to commence proceedings, seeking compensation, under Montreal Convention. That time limit cannot be extended. It is a definitive period.
Dan:Now, what about seeking legal advice very early?
David Ford:Look, again, that’s a very important question. In all cases where you have to prove negligence, and you’d be surprised, even where you think it’s a case where it’s a clearcut case, where the insurer, well it is the insurer of the airline, but where the airline is liable, it is so important that you do contact a solicitor as soon as possible. Because the event, for example, one of the clients that, sustained quite serious second-degree burns, it was very important that I got a statement from not only the husband, but the father, but also the mother, as the circumstances around the accident, because they were very much upset and distressed at the time of the accident. And it was important to get the factual background in relation to the accident from them, while it’s fresh in their mind.
David Ford:Look, it’s just trite to say, after being in the … practising  in this jurisdiction for nearly 40 years, is that, no matter how good your memory is, your memory will, to a certain extent, fade, especially if it’s been quite a traumatic type of experience. And not only that, it may well be that in addition to the immediate family members, they may have been provided with contact telephone numbers of other people that witnessed the incident.
David Ford:It is always important in any case, to talk to independent witnesses to find out their recollection and record that recollection. As quite frankly, the courts tend to accept, I think more readily sometimes, in circumstances such as that the evidence of independent witness, whose got no actual financial interest in the outcome of the case.
Dan:The choice of a lawyer is important as well, I mean, given that this is a bit of a specialist area of law, isn’t it, within the realm of personal injury law, generally?
David Ford:It is. It’s far more specialised in the sense that the liability questions are important, and have to be determined. The actual quantum of damages, most good personal injury lawyers are able to put that together. But, I think the best way to answer the question is that there are a number of firms that do act on behalf of the insurance companies of these airlines. You tend to get, I think, a bit of an understanding as to their modus operandi, who you’re dealing with. It’s of assistance, I think, if you do regularly practise in the area, as opposed to someone who’s attempting to make one of these claims on a first occasion.
Dan:David, thanks for joining me.
David Ford:I appreciate that, thank you.
Speaker 1:Thank you for listening. If you have any questions, please call BPC on 0282806900.

 

 

minor injury in motor accident

What is “MINOR INJURY?”

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident since 1 December 2017, then your claim is governed by the provisions of the Motor Accidents Injuries Act (NSW) (2017).

After you have lodged a claim form with the green slip insurer seeking compensation for your injuries, you might have received a letter from the insurer, in which they advised they have classified your injury as being “minor”.

Pursuant to Section 1.6 of the Act, a minor injury is any one or more of the following:-

  1. Soft tissue injury;
  2. A minor psychological or psychiatric injury.

A soft tissue injury is defined in the Act as the following:-

“an injury to tissue that connects, supports or surrounds other structures or organs of the body (such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, menisci, cartilage, fascia, fibrous tissues, fat, blood vessels and synovial membranes), but not an injury to nerves or complete or partial rupture of tendons, ligaments, menisci or cartilage.”

If your injury is classified as being minor, then you will only receive statutory benefits for a period of six (6) months.

However, after the six (6) month period of benefits has ended, you may still be in a position where you are losing income as a consequence of your injuries and also require further ongoing treatment.

In many cases, you may have suffered an injury to a spinal nerve root that manifests in neurological signs (other than radiculopathy) and unfortunately, such an injury is also defined as a soft tissue injury for the purposes of the Act.

However, if the injury to the nerve results in radiculopathy then it is not a minor injury.  The criteria for assessing whether radiculopathy is present, is set out in the guidelines.  For radiculopathy to be considered genuine, two (2) or more of the following clinical signs must be present:-

  1. Loss or asymmetry of reflexes;
  2. Positive sciatic nerve root tension signs;
  3. Muscle atrophy and/or decreased limb circumference;
  4. Muscle weakness that is anatomically localised to an appropriate spinal nerve root distribution;
  5. Reproducible sensory loss that is anatomically localised to an appropriate spinal nerve root distribution.

We can assist you in finding out whether or not your injury has been properly classified as being minor.  If your injury is not minor, then you may be entitled to far more significant benefits than the statutory benefits as imposed by the Act.

Fracture

If you have sustained a fracture, which should be easily identified by plain x-ray, then prima-facia a bone fracture is not classified as a minor injury.  It will be necessary, however, to determine whether or not the fracture has long-term consequences which may enable you to pursue a claim beyond statutory benefits for past and future loss of income and in certain circumstances, depending upon the seriousness of the fracture you may be entitled to receive damages for non-economic loss (your bodily injury which results in permanent impairment and pain and suffering).

Scarring

If you have sustained an injury which results in permanent scarring to your body then this is not a minor injury.  Depending upon the severity of the scarring and its location on your body, there is a possibility you may be able to claim past and future economic loss if as a result you have suffered a loss of income, i.e. modelling or in the alternative, you suffer from a psychological or psychiatric injury which is not minor as a consequence of the scarring.

Please contact the accredited Personal Injury Specialists at Beilby Poulden Costello who will assist you in obtaining the proper amount of compensation to which you are entitled.

Gym Injuries & Compensation Claims

Gym Injuries and Compensation Claims

Before we know it, summer will be fast approaching and many of us will be wanting to shed a few kilograms acquired over the winter break by signing up for yet another gym membership. With this, every year, there is a significant spike in injuries being sustained at the gym and hence an awareness of your rights in the event of an accident, as well as what waivers may be included in the contract you signed in order to join the gym in the first place, is important to know.

Recent Events

Earlier this year, a gym made headlines when a fifteen-year-old boy was killed in an accident on the premises. Unsupervised, he was stuck underneath a 98-kilogram bar and remained that way for, what paramedics estimated to be, about half an hour before he was discovered. It was found that not only was the gym negligent in enforcing its supervision policy for gym members under the age of 16, but the staff was negligent in basic supervision as the injured patron had been undiscovered and incapacitated for so long.

After remaining on life support for a while, the boy’s family opted to turn it off and say goodbye to their child. Unfortunately, the accident could have been avoided by the basic fulfilment of gym policy and mitigated by someone finding the incapacitated teen sooner.

Personal Trainers and Liability

Many gyms hire personal trainers as contracted employees/“contractors” in order to reduce their own liability. Sometimes, this can make it more difficult for a client who is injured to seek legal remedy. In general, gym owners and personal trainers alike are considered to owe clients a duty of care. For the gym, they must take reasonable care in hiring the personal trainer (background checks, certifications, check with other employers, etc.). For personal trainers, they must take reasonable care that the exercise regime recommended by them to the client will not cause them harm.

It is important that if you are injured through a relationship with a personal trainer, you discuss your case with a lawyer to explore your claim options. In some cases, you will be able to bring a claim against both the gym and the trainer, whereas other times you will only be able to bring a claim against one or the other.

Liability Waivers & Gym Contracts

Everyone knows that signing a gym contract is a necessity for joining any gym, from the biggest 24 hours establishments to small boutique workout classes, all require a commitment. In this commitment, a liability waiver is often included. While courts are not strictly required to uphold the waivers in gym contracts (particularly unconscionable contracts that overly favour the gym’s interests), it is up to their discretion to decide how much of the gym’s liability you’ve agreed to waive. In general, if you were injured due to your own improper use of equipment, then your case will be weaker, whereas if you are injured due to faulty equipment, your claim will be stronger.

Negligence

If you are trying to file a claim against a gym, it is likely that you will be filing a claim of negligence. Australian law states that negligence is: “the failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing an injury to another person.” To prove this, you are required to demonstrate four things. First, that you were owed a duty of care. Secondly, that the defendant (the gym in this instance) breached that duty of care, either through failure to act or incorrect act. Third you must demonstrate that your injury or loss was foreseeable by a reasonable person in the defendant’s position. And finally, that your injury or loss was caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.

If you or a loved one have experienced an injury at a gym or because of a personal trainer, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to examine your contract, discuss your case, and advise you about your potential claims.

Injured on the Roads while driving cycle. Contact BPC Lawyers today for help.

Your Rights as a Cyclist if you have Been Injured on the Roads

After 1 December 2017, if you are a cyclist and have been injured in a collision with a motor vehicle on New South Wales roads, then you will be able to claim damages pursuant to the provisions of the Motor Accidents Injuries Act (NSW) 2017.

Your claim can be made against the CTP green slip insurer of the motor vehicle or bus with which you had the collision and if the vehicle was unregistered then you are still able to bring a claim against the Nominal Defendant.

Pursuant to the provisions Division 2.4 of the Motor Accidents Injuries Act, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is for the purposes of this Act the Nominal Defendant.

The writer has acted for many cyclists who have been seriously injured in accidents involving another motor vehicle.

It is now a common sight to see cyclists on our roads, both during the day and also at night.

The NSW Government has recognised this fact and has enacted new laws in relation to driver behaviour regarding cyclists.

Since 1 March 2017, drivers in NSW must leave at least one metre of space when passing a cyclist in speed zones of 60 km per hour or less. They must leave at least 1.5 metres in higher speed zones.

Furthermore, if it is safe to do so, drivers can cross centre dividing lines or continuous lane dividing lines to overtake a cyclist. They can also drive on painted islands and dividing strips to pass a bicycle when safe to do so. If it is not safe, drivers must slow down and wait until there is enough space to pass.

As far as cyclists’ behaviour concerning other motor vehicles, the minimum passing distance is not specified for cyclists and they are advised to leave sufficient room to avoid a collision when passing cars.

The writer has been involved in several cases where cyclists were thrown from their bicycle and sustained serious injuries and in one circumstance was rendered unconscious. It is therefore important if you are a cyclist at all time you have with you photo identification and also a mobile phone. It has also been mandated by the government there is a requirement for bicycle riders to produce photo identification when stopped by police who have suspected they may have committed an offence.

It is helpful if you also carry a photo ID in the event that a person or persons witness your accident and may wish to keep in contact with you and provide you with statement regarding your accident to assist you in your claim. I have been involved in a number of cases where the statements by independent witnesses were crucial in proving the cyclist was not at fault and the entire blame for the accident fell upon the driver of the motor vehicle.

It is always important to have a mobile phone with you to be able to photograph the registration plate of a motor vehicle if needed and also record details of the driver including taking a photograph of their driver’s licence.

All of this information will assist you when completing the Application for Personal Injury Benefits which is the new claim form required to be completed for all accidents after 1 December 2017 and must be lodged with the relevant CTP insurer within three months of the date of your accident.

There may also be circumstances where a cyclist has sustained injuries from falling off their bike because of defects in the road surface such as a pothole or other dangers such as loose gravel, however, these claims are governed by the provisions of the Civil Liability Act (NSW) 2002 and such claims against the local council, who are responsible for the maintenance of the road, require far more investigation.

The local council will endeavour to seek immunity from suit pursuant to the provisions of Section 43 of the Civil Liability Act. It will be necessary to seek the advice of an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law with regards to proceedings of this nature.

If you are injured whilst riding your bicycle on NSW roads, then contact the specialist accredited lawyers at BPC Lawyers who will be able to provide you with immediate assistance.

Whiplash associated disorders

Whiplash associated disorders

“Whiplash associated disorders – (WAD)”

A soft tissue injury occurs due to trauma to the human body when the tissues that connect, support or surround other structures and organs of the body are damaged. By definition, soft tissue includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels and synovial membranes.

Usually, the spine and the shoulders are often affected in this type of injury.

Immediate disability does follow injury to ligaments and healing, from a functional view point is seldom perfect.

Since soft tissue injury always heals with scar or fibrous tissues, it lacks the viability or elasticity of the original tissue, therefore soft tissue is always weaker after injury (whilst bone will be strengthened by scar tissue).

On occasions, some medico legal doctors imply that a whiplash associated disorder can be detected using an MRI scan. There is research to the contrary.

There was a study conducted in Sweden in 1994 where 39 consecutive cases of whiplash injury of the neck were examined clinically and with an MRI at a mean of 11 days after trauma.

26 of these showed changes on MRI with disc lesions in 25 cases, 10 of which were classified as disc herniations and a muscle lesion in one case. All of these persons had neck pain or headache.

29 cases had neurological deficits, mostly sensibility disturbances. 22 of the 26 cases with pathological MRI had neurological signs, as had 7 of the 10 cases with disc herniation.

The relationship between the MRI findings and the clinical symptoms and signs was poor.

The study was undertaken to evaluate if MRI within two days of a motor vehicle accident could reveal pathology of importance for understanding long term disability after whiplash neck sprain injuries.

As part of a prospective study, cervical and cerebral MRI was performed on 40 neck sprain patients with whiplash injury after car accidents.

The imaging was done with two days of the injury to make sure that any neck muscle bleeding, oedema or other soft tissue injuries could be detected.

The MRI findings from the patients were both correlated to report symptoms six months after the accident and compared to a control group of 20 volunteers.

The MRI of both the brain and neck revealed no significant differences between the patients and the control group.

When the patients were grouped according to the main MRI findings at intake and compared according to the development of subjective symptoms reported by the patients, the only significant difference was more headaches at six months in the groups with disc pathology or spondylosis when compared to the group with no pathology.

MRI scan within two days of the whiplash neck sprain injury could not detect pathology connected to the injury nor predict symptom development and outcome.

In conclusion, pain residuals, which may last for months or even years, may be due to the scar tissue which has replaced the previous normal tissue. Its inelastic quality can cause pain with certain movements. The lengthy period of healing may be explained by the fact that it takes a long time for soft tissue to heal and mend.

D R Ford

10 March 2017

Why Your Retirement Age Can Have a Big Impact on Compensation Payout

Why Your Retirement Age Can Have a Big Impact on Compensation Payout

One of the key factors when determining compensation payout is the expected age of retirement for the injured person.

When calculating compensation settlements, the expected age of retirement is 67 years of age. Anything beyond 67 years must be submitted for review, explaining why you believe you (as an injured claimant) should be expected to work past 67 years under your expected life path before the incident.

CASE BACKGROUND –  Allianz Limited v Habib & ORS (2015) NSW SC1719

A scenario was recently resolved in the Supreme Court where Allianz, the CTP Insurer, overturned a previous decision to award compensation to an injured claimant based on a retirement age of 70. It was found that there was no substance or justified reason for the claimant to receive compensation past the expected age of 67, and thus the decision was overturned. Read below for more details.

There was a recent decision in the Supreme Court of NSW where His Honour Mr Justice Beech-Jones set aside the decision of a Claims Assessor because of a failure by the Claims Assessor to state (and to the extent necessary explain) the claimant’s age of retirement.

The proceedings were for personal injuries arising out of a motor vehicle accident which occurred on 30 January 2013. At that time, the plaintiff sustained an injury to his lower back in the accident. The CTP insurer, Allianz accepted liability for the claim. The Claims Assessor issued a certificate and reasons for decision on 14 May 2015 and awarded damages in favour of the claimant in the sum of $221,586.00 plus schedule legal costs.

In the reasons, the Assessor awarded the claimant an amount of $160,000.00 for future economic loss and the sum of $36,500.00 for future commercial care.

The CTP insurer sought a judicial review of the assessment on a number of grounds and in particular sought to set the decision aside because the calculation of future economic loss was projected to an age of retirement of 70 years.

There was a document headed, ‘Claimant’s Calculations’ which set out the schedule of damages claimed by the claimant.

This document had been served upon the CTP insurer.

However, in the Assessor’s reasons, there was no reference made to this document.

Allianz in their submissions stated that they had never agreed to the assumption the claimant would continue working until the age of 70.

In most cases, the parties now agree the anticipated working life of a claimant is until the age If a Judge or Claims Assessor is to award compensation for loss of earnings beyond the age of 67, then it is incumbent upon that Judge or Assessor to provide adequate reasons as to why he or she has awarded damages for that further short period of working life.

The decision is worth reading as all the other grounds of review which were submitted by Allianz were rejected by His Honour.

Accordingly, it is important when seeking to have damages for economic loss beyond the age of 67 years to set out in detail for submission to the Judge or the Claims Assessor the reasons why you wish to submit the claimant had intended to work beyond the age of 67 years.

But for the accident, you should submit the claimant was in good health, had a secure employment or worked in a profession where working beyond the age of 67 years is more the norm than the exception and if possible, provide corroborating evidence from either fellow workers or members of that particular profession.

If you have been injured and are seeking compensation, we can help. BPC Lawyers have represented injured Sydney and NSW residents for over 20 years, and we will be happy to offer a complimentary, free consultation to discuss your claim and determine whether you have a genuine claim for compensation.

David R. Ford, Special Counsel

Is it Possible to Claim Motor Accident Compensation If No One is at Fault? Call BPC Lawyers.

Is it Possible to Claim Motor Accident Compensation If No One is at Fault?

When you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident as a result of the negligence of another driver, there is generally a clear entitlement to compensation for injured drivers and passengers.

But what happens when someone gets injured in a motor accident, and no one is to blame?

There was a recent decision in the District Court at Sydney involving an interpretation of the “blameless” accident provisions of the Motor Accident Compensation Act 1999 (NSW). The case was Garry Connaughton –v- Pacific Rail Engineering Pty Limited and was heard on 12 February 2015. The case was determined by Her Honour, Judge Norton SC.

CASE BACKGROUND – Garry Connaughton –v- Pacific Rail Engineering Pty Limited

The proceedings were for personal injuries arising out of a motor vehicle accident which occurred on 13 July 2011. At that time, the Plaintiff was a driver of a motor vehicle which was involved in a single vehicle accident involving a tree which fell onto the road. The Plaintiff, Garry Connaughton, was driving his truck in a northerly direction on Mount Ousley Road at Mount Ousley at approximately 10:30am when a roadside tree fell and struck the cabin of the truck, which then ran out of control but subsequently came to a halt. The Plaintiff was badly injured in the accident and injury was conceded by the Insurer and there was no issue regarding contributory negligence.

The Plaintiff had little recollection regarding the accident. He was driving his truck in the curb side lane of the road and his first recollection was a man yelling out and his last recollection was driving up the road and there being nothing on the road in front of him.

The Judgment is quite detailed but in summary, Her Honour was asked to decide three questions:

  1. Has there been a motor vehicle accident?
  2. If so, is it a blameless accident?
  3. Is the Plaintiff excluded from recovery under the blameless accident provisions by operation of Section 7E in relation to drivers?

in summary, Her Honour found there had been a motor vehicle accident and it was a blameless accident. Furthermore, the Plaintiff was not excluded from recovery under the blameless accident provisions by operation of Section 7E as she found the Plaintiff did not cause this accident. His driving on the raod was no more than a background fact which explains why he was in a position where he could be struck by a tree. Plus the driving of the Plaintiff was nothing more than “the mere occasion of the injury”.

Furthermore, at Paragraph 73 Her Honour stated:-

“73. Looking at the words of the Section and bearing in mind the words used in the second reading speech (of Parliament) I find that even under the extended definition of causation of Section 7E there was no act or omission on behalf of the Plaintiff, either voluntary or involuntary, which can be said to have caused the accident. I do not accept that the words mean the driver in single-vehicle accidents are deemed to have caused that accident.”

Accordingly, in summary, there was a verdict entered in favour of the Plaintiff which means liability was wholly determined in his favour against the Defendant Insurer. There was a further order made by Her Honour that damages are to be assessed.

In the end, it was found that because no act by the man who suffered injury in his blameless motor accident, either voluntary or involuntary, could have caused the accident, with a verdict in favour of the plaintiff delivered to assess his damages from the insurance company.

If you have been in a motor accident, regardless of whether it is negligent or blameless, we will be happy to offer a complimentary, free consultation to discuss your claim and determine whether you have a genuine claim for compensation.

David R. Ford, Special Counsel