The lifestyle preference of a 32 yr-old travel industry sales manager not to “chase the highest income she can”, has counted against her in the assessment of accident-related income loss from a fatal December 2009 highway accident.
Anya Basic was returning from vacation in Yeppoon, seated in the front seat of a Mitsubishi Lancer sedan, when it collided head-on with an overtaking vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. After dragging herself from the Lancer, she “hobbled over and saw two girls aged 8 and 3 in the deceased’s car” and comforted them until an ambulance arrived about an hour later.
Anya had excelled as the state business development manager for adventure travel specialist, Intrepid Travel but by February 2012 – just after she was due to start a new role as a national sales manager at higher pay – she resigned to perform a part-time role.
At issue in the two-day liability admitted trial, was the extent to which the need to reduce her working hours – and in particular that part of the role which required her to drive around 20,000 km each year to conduct sales visits to regional and country travel agents – was caused by accident-related injuries.
She claimed as justification for the work change, that her adjustment disorder from the calamity as well as her neck and leg injuries, made the driving commitment too onerous and left her exhausted and irritable by day’s end. The court thought this “too simplistic” and explored in some detail her inspiration from a young age “to be Indiana Jones” and her creation of a career path to pursue “ambitious preferences for an interesting and fulfilling life” rather than income.
It noted that in early 2012 around the time she decided to work part-time, she also enrolled in Indonesian language courses – in anticipation of possibly relocating there – began an anthropology degree and took up charity work for one-half day each week.
AAMI – the CTP insurer of the oncoming vehicle – asserted that as she had successfully executed her state manager job, including its regional driving component, for two years post-accident, her shift to a part-time role was merely an iteration of her inherent “itinerant spirit”.
Moreover, they contended, her university study, charity work and 2.5 days/week paid job – when aggregated – should be counted as a four-day/week work commitment.
The court agreed.
And against her contention of physical injury related exhaustion, AAMI – with whom Anya, in fact, achieved an “exemplary work history” for 8 years before moving into travel – produced Facebook evidence of wall posts for the same time period describing her “commendably active” exercise schedule that included boot camp, body sculpting, yoga, cycling and trail walking.
In weighing such evidence, his honour ultimately found that the worst of the accident-related symptoms had passed and Anya was most likely capable of returning to full-time work, including any role which had a major driving commitment.
Agreeing that some loss was nevertheless probable over the course of her working life, future loss of earning capacity was allowed for with an amount equivalent to one year’s net income of $53,000, referenced to the salary for the national role that she had, in fact, declined.
All in all, damages were awarded at $90,000.