On the 31st of March 2022, the Supreme Court of Queensland ordered that Allianz pay a taxi driver $217,490.07 in damages to compensate him for the impact of the injuries that arose from the car accident. The taxi driver had sustained a whiplash injury and experienced ongoing debilitating pain. The expert medico-legal evidence accepted by the Court indicated that there was no established structural reason to explain the cause of pain and he was rated as having a 0% permanent impairment. The expert however suggested that the plaintiff had developed a pain syndrome.

Court confirms that a “minor” collision does not mean minor injuries

The Court accepted that the car accident was a minor impact collision – the motor vehicle accident was a very low speed, minor impact accident, with minimal damage to both vehicles. However, the Court did not disregard the plaintiff’s genuine reporting of symptoms despite the minor nature of the car crash. Justice Crow noted “the fact that the impact was minor does not necessarily conclude that Mr Murphy has not suffered from a high level of symptoms of neck or spinal injury”.

Injured motorist did not get his full wish list – but he still got alot!

The Court recognised the impact of the accident on the plaintiff. While the injured driver did not get everything he asked for, the Court awarded the following amounts:

·         $16,150 for pain and suffering

·         $59,675 for past loss of economic capacity

·         $124,500 for future economic loss

·         $17,165.07 for medical expenses

Telling the plaintiff’s story was his key to success

The plaintiff’s success rested on his ability to genuinely articulate the ongoing impact of the injuries on his life and his consistent attempts to treat the injuries. It was the story the plaintiff was able to convey that was his biggest weapon in this case. His evidence led Justice Crow to the conclusion that “I have no doubt that Mr Murphy believes he has a serious spinal injury and have no doubt that Mr Murphy is in fact suffering from some pain, particularly in his cervical spine”.

Insurers need to take note – a clinical approach to assessment of damages may not deliver a fair settlement

The amount awarded is substantial considering the medical evidence relied on by the insurer and the impact of significant pre-existing medical conditions. There is a lesson to be learned by insurers here. Just because their chosen expert has rated the injury as resulting in no permanent impairment, and just because there is no structural reason for the pain, does not mean an injured person ought to receive an unfairly low amount of damages.

Insurers should look beyond the clinical facts when assessing claims and consider the story told by the plaintiff and by the evidence. A clinical approach that disregards the story will surely result in an unsatisfactory outcome for all participants and result in unnecessary costs being incurred by all sides.

Murphy v Turner-Jones & Anor [2022] QSC 40

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