Written by Peter CarterMarch 23, 2016
A car that reversed into a Toyota Corolla at a petrol bowser was travelling so slowly the impact barely turned its wheels “half a rotation” but jolted its occupant so badly that a permanent ongoing neck injury with constant pain and headaches resulted.
That was the contention of an unemployed Melissa George in her injury compensation lawsuit against Allianz that followed the July 2013 ding.
Security footage at the servo put the impact speed of the offending vehicle at between 2.8 kph and 6.2 kph (around 1.7 mps).
Allianz admitted fault on behalf of its insured driver but alleged no injury at all had been sustained.
Despite her evidence that her neck had been jolted by the impact, it attacked the claim from the start as “implausible”.
According to Judge Leanne Clare who presided over a three-day trial in Brisbane’s District Court accepted that contention noting, “the unlikelihood of substantial and chronic injury was a major hurdle for the plaintiff’s case”.
Neurologist Dr Don Todman – accepting her claims of ongoing symptoms at face value – swore low-speed impact might in some circumstances cause the injury complained of. He produced studies that supported that theory but none referred to impacts where the velocity transfer was less than 10 kph.
Her Honour thought it significant that neither he nor orthopaedist Paul Pincus could recall any other instance in their long years of practice where such a low velocity transfer had caused prolonged injury symptoms.
Ms George’s case collapsed though under the weight of her “significant contradictions, inconsistencies and untruths”.
First, despite claiming she was in immediate pain and discomfort, the servo footage also showed George walking, bending, twisting, reaching and moving normally.
Second, there was no objectively observable injury on specialist examinations, no abnormality on x-ray or MRI and no objective corroboration of any of her assertions.
Third, George told Dr Pincus that her pain and headaches were so bad she had to attend her GP every five days to get further prescriptions for Mersyndol Forte.
Against this, her pharmaceutical benefits history revealed that although provided with a prescription for that medication, she had hadn’t filled it in the four years since it was written. She was however taking strong pain relief medication for her other medical conditions and the court acknowledged her limited financial resources put restrictions on her medical spend.
“Ms George offered no explanation for the demonstrably untrue account she gave to Dr Pincus,”noted Her Honour. “It was a baseless claim and another blow to Ms George’s general credibility regarding her symptoms”.
Fourth, although constantly seeing doctors – weekly on average – for other ailments, only on four occasions had she mentioned her neck or headache symptoms.
Judge Clare rejected her explanation for not constantly making GP complaints about the accident symptoms – that she believed them to be untreatable – and was so unimpressed by George’s “impaired credibility” she could not be persuaded that even a transient minor injury had occurred.
“On the balance of probabilities, no injury was caused by the collision.”
Judgment was entered in favour of the insurer and Ms George was ordered to pay its legal costs of the trial.