In the TAC common law case of ‘Broom v the Transport Accident Commission’, the County Court of Victoria was asked to determine whether an injured passenger, Mr Sheldon Broom, had suffered a “serious injury” and whether he was therefore entitled to TAC common law damages under the Transport Accident Act.
The focus of the case was the consequences of Mr Broom’s neck and back injuries on his life and the impact on his ability to work.
On 5 March 2019, Mr Broom was a passenger in a truck that was stationary on the Westgate Freeway when it was hit from behind by another truck.
He alleged that as a result of the crash, he suffered a serious long-term impairment of his spine (neck and low back), which had caused his leisure activities and employment continue to be affected by the injuries caused by the motor vehicle accident.
Meeting the “serious injury” threshold for a TAC common law claim
The central issue in this case is whether Broom’s injuries meet the criteria of a “serious injury” as defined by the Transport Accident Act 1986 (Vic). The Act requires that the injury, when considering the consequences, must be at least “very considerable” and certainly more than “significant” or “marked.”
Medical evidence to support a TAC common law claim was in dispute
Two MRI scans of Mr Broom’s cervical spine revealed degenerative changes and nerve root impingement, albeit that the second scan showed some improvement. Independent medical experts were engaged by the plaintiff who supported Mr Broom’s claim that the accident aggravated pre-existing degenerative changes and soft tissue injuries in his spine.
In contrast, Dr. Terence Saxby, engaged by the TAC, argued that the injuries were more consistent with underlying degeneration and suggested that the accident’s contribution to the injuries had resolved over the passage of time.
The Court’s determination
The Court granted leave for Mr. Broom to bring a claim for TAC common law damages for injuries that he suffered as a result of the transport accident.
The Court carefully considered Mr Broom’s medical history, including occasional pre-accident osteopathic and chiropractic treatments, to deal with low-level complaints. The Court also noted the absence of any significant neck issues prior to the accident and no previous diagnosis or prognosis relating to the alleged spinal injuries.
The Court considered expert medical opinions indicating that Mr Broom’s injuries were stable and unlikely to change significantly in the foreseeable future.
Mr Broom gave evidence that since the accident, he had continued to experience limited movement and constant neck pain which impacted his work as an electrician.
While his evidence was that he continued to work thanks to a supportive employer, the effect of the injuries meant that his capacity and duties were restricted, and he relied heavily on apprentices to perform work that he was capable of prior to the crash. As a result of the injuries sustained in the truck accident, it had also been necessary for him to reduce work done within his own business.
Mr Broom also gave evidence that his life outside work had been substantially affected by the injuries caused by the accident.
The Court acknowledged that the consequences for Mr Broom included disrupted sleep, reduced performance of household and family duties, impacts on his sex life and limitations on recreational activities, including motorbike riding, fishing, and car trips. The Court agreed that these impacts and limitations were significant for Mr Broom.
In making its decision, the Court was persuaded by the “very considerable” consequences of the impairment that Mr. Broom faced, including his incapacity for ongoing work. As a result of the decision, he now has permission to bring a claim for compensation for his pain and suffering and his economic loss arising from the accident.
Get help from a TAC lawyer
Ensuring you access all your compensation and other entitlements after a motor vehicle accident often requires a rigorous assessment. Aside from your statutory entitlements, understanding any entitlement to TAC common law damages can be a difficult and complicated process.
At Polaris, we are experts in all aspects of TAC compensation claims from the relatively straightforward to the very complex. Having a highly experienced TAC lawyer by your side, will ensure you receive all the compensation you deserve.