In this blog, we review a case where Polaris Lawyers was able to resolve the client’s common law claim for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident without the need to go to court. Our client achieved a lump sum compensation payment of $487,000. This payment included successful claims for impairment, common law damages, loss of earning, and a contribution to legal fees.
The common law damages were for pain and suffering and economic loss. To claim common law damages, you need to show that you have suffered a serious injury and that the injury was caused or contributed to by a negligent party. You can learn more about common law compensation and meeting the serious injury threshold here.
*The name of our client has been changed to respect of their privacy.
Circumstances of the motor vehicle accident (the accident)
In August 2018, Ms Jones (27 years old) was exiting the freeway when another vehicle ran a red light and hit into the driver’s side of Ms Jones’s vehicle. The impact of the collision caused both vehicles to spin approximately 180 degrees and the airbags were deployed in both vehicles. Ms Jones was trapped in her vehicle and had to wait for emergency services to cut her out.
Both the police and ambulance attended the accident scene. Ms Jones was taken by ambulance to a major trauma hospital for medical treatment. She remained in hospital were about 1 week before being discharged to a rehabilitation centre.
Ms Jones lodged a TAC claim which was accepted. She also made an application for a Serious Injury Certificate which was granted by the TAC.
Injuries sustained in the accident
- Pelvic injury including multiple fractures to the right iliac wing;
- Neck injury including multiple fractures to the cervical spine and a compression fracture in my thoracic spine;
- Left hand injury including fractures of the middle and ring fingers;
- Left shoulder injury;
- Multiple fractured ribs;
- Psychological injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and anxiety;
- Post concussive syndrome; and
Significant ongoing medical treatment required
In September 2018, Ms Jones was readmitted to hospital to have surgery to her left hand. She returned to the rehabilitation centre and remained as an inpatient for about 2 months. She also continued to attend the orthopaedic and neurosurgery departments at the hospital, for reviews.
By the end of October 2018, Ms Jones still required crutches to mobilise and was discharged into the care of her parents as she was unable to return home where she previously lived independently.
Ms Jones was prescribed Endone, Targin, Panadeine Forte and Mobic daily to help manage her pain.
By early January 2019, Ms Jones began consulting a psychologist fortnightly, to help her cope with the drastic changes in her life post the transport accident. She was later diagnosed with adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ms Jones also consulted a human biomechanics specialist to improve her mobility, flexibility and overall movements. Around the same time, Ms Jones was having issues with nausea, dizziness, light sensitivity and headaches and was referred to an ophthalmologist. She was then required to wear prescription glasses and continues to do so.
Due to Ms Jones’s ongoing treatment and physical restrictions, she was unable to return to her pre-injury work in allied health. This made Ms Jones feel very frustrated and depressed as she’d previously been very passionate about her work.
Despite her ongoing restrictions, Ms Jones was determined to return to work. In around February 2019, she commenced working three hours per day, two days per week, on lighter duties. She eventually increased that to five hours per day, three times per week. However, Ms Jones reported feeling extremely fatigued, both mentally and physically after each work shift.
Around March 2019, Ms Jones began seeing an osteopath twice per week. She was then referred to a neuropsychologist to help improve her cognitive functioning.
Physical health prior to the accident
Prior to the accident, Ms Jones was working full time in allied health earning approximately $55,000 annually. Her role regularly required physical demonstrations and moving of her clients’ bodies.
Away from work, Ms Jones was a very socially active and outgoing person.
She used to go to the gym most days after work and went on long walks with her dog and friends. Ms Jones also practiced Muai Thai boxing and played soccer at a high level. She really centred her life around sport and exercise-related activities including fun runs and endurance events.
Physical and psychological consequences of the injuries
Despite the above treatments, Ms Jones continues to experience the following:
- Constant pain in her back and neck;
- Persistent groin and right hip pain;
- Left hand pain when weight bearing;
- Intermittent left shoulder pain;
- Nausea, dizziness and fatigue; and
- Psychological symptoms including:
- poor memory and concentration;
- reduced libido; and
- difficulty sleeping.
Due to her ongoing physical symptoms and restrictions, Ms Jones struggled to get to sleep. When she was able to get comfortable, she would then think about the transport accident and how it’s forever changed her life. She rarely woke up feeling well rested from the previous night’s sleep.
Due to her physical and cognitive restrictions, lack of confidence and traumatisation after the accident, Ms Jones now felt anxious in cars, both as a driver and passenger. Ms Jones also often felt teary and overwhelmed when she saw or heard about other transport accidents. As a result, she felt more isolated and unable to move around as freely as she did before the accident.
Compensation secured for Ms Jones
Ms Jones received a lump sum compensation payment of $487,000. See below for the breakdown of her compensation.
Due to her extensive injuries, Ms Jones was paid an interim lump sum benefit of approximately $12,000.
By the time her common law claim settled, her combined impairment score was assessed at 33% for her accident related injuries. For more information on benefits and entitlements under the TAC scheme, please visit “TAC claims – all you need to know”.
Common law claim
The TAC granted Ms Jones a ‘Serious Injury Certificate’ and admitted liability for the accident. That is, the TAC agreed the other driver was negligent and caused the accident.
In light of the above, Ms Jones could now claim compensation for her pain and suffering and economic loss. In addition to the impairment benefit of $12,000, the TAC agreed to pay Ms Jones a further $225,000 for her pain and suffering and $250,000 for her economic loss ($15,000 for past economic loss and $235,000 for future economic loss).
The payment of $235,000 for future economic loss can be characterised as the TAC accepting that she will remain in her current or similar role, working at reduced capacity with an ongoing partial loss of earnings for at least 10 years before being able to return to fulltime employment.
In addition, TAC also acknowledges that Ms Jones may need stretches of time out of employment in the future or may not be able to continue working until full retirement age.
You can learn more about maximum personal injury compensation here.
Loss of earning benefits
For the period that Ms Jones had not been able to return to work, she received TAC loss of earning payments on a fortnightly basis until her common law claim settled. These payments totalled approximately $10,500 over almost 3 years.
She was not required to repay this amount as part of her common law settlement.
Medical and like expenses
Despite wrapping up her impairment and common law claims, the TAC’s obligation to pay for Ms Jones’ reasonable medical expenses for her accident-related injuries remains ongoing.
TAC’s contribution to Ms Jones’ legal fees
Lastly, as Ms Jones was successful in both her impairment and common law claims, the TAC paid a significant portion of her legal fees.
Ms Jones suffered substantial injuries in the road accident back in 2018. Despite significant medical treatment (both physical and psychological), she continues to require ongoing treatment.
While we acknowledge that the financial compensation achieved in a TAC claim does not make up for life-long injuries sustained by many, it is an important step in allowing road accident victims to start to rebuild their lives with some financial security in place.
At Polaris we always aim to maximise your compensation, minimising the impact of the compensation process on your life.