Pregnant crash victim awarded one sixth of what she claimed
A BUNDABERG resident who claimed more than $234,000 in damages after she hurt her back in a crash has been awarded a small fraction of the total sum she asked for.
Danielle Marea Williams-Cook, 27, was driving through a Chinchilla intersection in 2014 when another vehicle slammed into her.
Ms Williams-Cook was 10 weeks' pregnant at the time of the collision, which saw other driver Allan Neil Schloss fail to give way.
More than four years later and Ms Cook has been granted $35,708.25 in damages- about one sixth of the compensation she'd claimed for personal injury.
Whilst RACQ Insurance Ltd admitted liability, the amount of damages was in dispute.
During a three-day trial in Brisbane earlier this year, several doctors who treated Ms Williams-Cook over the four-year period gave evidence in support or against her claim.
In her assertions, the Bundaberg mother said her lower back and right shoulder had been injured in the crash, with her spinal injury deteriorating over the years.
"She experiences pain and discomfort every day," Judge Nathan Jarro said.
But barrister Gerard O'Driscoll, arguing on behalf of RACQ Insurance, asserted the woman's injuries were not true.
The defence's evidence relied on records from the Chinchilla Hospital on the day of the crash, which didn't make mention of a lower back complaint.
Neither did the records for various appointments Ms Williams-Cook attended at the Miles Medical Centre over the next six months.
"(She) was examined by Dr Christopher Bell ... for the purposes of her claim for damages on January 26, 2016. Ms Williams-Cook told him that she did not have lower back pain initially following the accident but said that this pain developed in subsequent months as her pregnancy progressed," Mr O'Driscoll said.
Ms Williams-Cook quit her job at the Murgon Services Club in 2016.
Dr Bell said this was due to a "number of combination of factors ... with one of them being difficulty with back pain with prolonged standing. It was not until May 2017 that she regained employment with Endeavour Foundation in Bundaberg where she works as a disability support worker. She is currently working 15 hours per week in this role. She avoids heavy lifting, bending and twisting. She has not had any days off due to her back pain".
Manager of the club at the time Ms Williams-Cook was an employee, Hayley Henness said the mother made "no complaints to (her) regarding shifting of kegs or that she was unable to perform that particular work task".
The court heard an insurance form Ms Williams-Cook filled out said she'd taken three weeks off work after the colission.
"It wasn't necessarily a lie. I had put down 'three weeks', but that's what I believed I'd taken off at the time, and it was a year after - near a year, six months after the accident, and I honestly believed that I had taken a few weeks off," she said from the witness box.
In his findings, Judge Jarro said while he didn't think Ms Williams-Cook lacked credibility, there were "anomalies within her own evidence".
"It is perplexing that it was only after Ms Williams-Cook had seen her solicitors regarding pursuing a personal injuries claim in relation to the accident, that she sought any assistance for her back from a general practitioner," he said.
"The collective evidence or the general practitioners reveals in excess of 20 occassions where no complaints of back pain were recorded or raised."
Despite the absence of supporting evidence for some of Ms Williams-Cook's assertions, which he said were "problematic for her claim", Judge Jarro concluded the accident did cause the mother's back and shoulder injuries.
He awarded $10,390 in general damages, $500 in past special damages (she claimed $2,376), $350 for past economic loss (she claimed for $19,800), $20,000 for future economic loss (she claimed $150,000), $2500 for future special damages (she claimed for $22,467) and $0 for future commercial domestic assistance (she claimed $40,000).