Written by Peter CarterAugust 25, 2021
A driver whose ute collided with the rear of a preceding vehicle on a highway in Central Queensland has failed in his attempt to blame the accident on an unidentified third car with a judge concluding the story was his own invention.
Darren Medlin was driving home in December 2014 to Yeppoon from Rockhampton – on a road he knew well – thinking about the government job he had been working at for the past couple of months.
He claimed his Hilux had been following a red hatchback east until it violently swerved to the left off the road to avoid a Ford utility turning right into a driveway. He then – so his story went – slammed on the brakes and swerved but couldn’t avoid hitting the Ford.Medlin argued his view of the Ford had been obscured and wasn’t aware of it having stopped because Red Car had not slowed down to “await its turn before proceeding” but rather swerved sharply and passed the Ford on its left at speed.
But for such unsafe driving on Red Car’s part, he contended he would have seen the Ford and avoided the collision.
Medlin and the occupants of the Ford – Hayden Finn and his mother Sharon – were seriously injured in the high speed collision. Red Car did not stop at the scene and neither it nor its driver has since been identified.
Because he had no way of identifying Red Car’s particulars or those of its driver, Medlin’s only recourse was against the Nominal Defendant as statutory third-party insurer for identified vehicles.
In response to the lawsuit he filed in the Supreme Court in 2017 the insurer agreed his income and other losses from the accident came to $1.5 mil but asserted Medlin had made up the story about Red Car and that regardless, the driver of that vehicle did not owe him any duty in the way it went about avoiding a collision with the Ford.
The dispute came before Justice Susan Brown in Rockhampton over three days in December 2020.
While Her Honour considered Medlin to be an honest witness, she noted that “his evidence suffered from reconstruction rather than him recalling what had occurred”.
And while the evidence of other witnesses was “honest and generally reliable,” Justice Brown observed that “what [all] witnesses saw and their recollections, are piecemeal”.
Neither Finn nor his mother said no car had passed them just prior to the collision and none of the several other witnesses called by the insurer could recall Red Car’s presence.
The only lay witness called by Medlin remembers a red car coming out of the dust caused from the crash and driving away from the scene in a way that Her Honour thought was materially different to what Medlin had described.
An under resourced police force hadn’t investigated Red Car’s presence as their priority had been to clear the road and ensure safety. Unfortunately, a number of witness statements obtained by police contained errors (included the year the crash occurred) and some were only obtained 6 months after the collision.
Justice Brown concluded that although Medlin’s version of events was “possible”, it did not represent what in fact occurred and was not supported by any other witness.
Considering how unusual it would be for a driver violently swerve off the road as described, Her Honour found it likely that at least one of the witnesses would have seen and remembered it, had it in fact occurred.
Her Honour concluded Medlin had reconstructed the events and that – given his excellent driving record – Red Car offered a justification when he may well have been “lost in thought on a road he knew well, rather than focusing on what was ahead of him”.
It was thus unnecessary for the court to consider whether the driver of Red Car had in fact been negligent.
Had accurate evidence been gathered at the time of the crash, the Court may have had a clearer picture of events. That evidence may have been sufficient to persuade the Court of Red Car’s presence and that the erratic manner in which it had been driven, contributed to the collision.