A pedestrian hit by car on a Broadbeach sidewalk after a violent two car collision and then had a wall that the car also hit fall on top of her, has been ordered to pay a substantial part of the legal costs of the at-fault driver’s insurer for having exaggerated her injuries and the severity of her symptoms.
Meah Baldock-Davis was walking towards Pacific Fair when the innocent vehicle in the collision flew from the road beside her and struck her from behind.She fell to the ground only to have a wall bordering the pavement that the car had also struck, fall on top of her.
After being ambulanced to the Gold Coast University Hospital for surgery to her left foot and neurological assessment of her back, she was discharged four days later.
The neurology department discharged her from outpatient treatment three weeks after the accident with an assessment that she was symptom-free.
Fast forward from July 2019 to December 2022 when her injury compensation claim against the at fault driver for spinal injuries, fractured ribs and the foot injury came before Justice Sean Cooper in the Supreme Court in Brisbane.
His Honour accepted the L3 and L4 fractures recorded by the hospital – in the absence of evidence of any other trauma to her spine which might otherwise explain their existence – were caused by the accident.
There remained some disagreement between orthopaedist John Radovanovic called for the plaintiff and his colleague David Pincus as to the extent of other injuries at the C7/T1 level.
The judge found though that contest was unnecessary to decide, given other findings damning the plaintiff’s case that she remained seriously impaired from accident related injuries.
Her symptom-free discharge from the GCUH neurology department and a similar clean bill of health from her physiotherapist in December 2019 were completely at odds with the exaggerated accounts of ongoing pain and restricted activity she had given to Radovanovic, neurologist Scott Campbell and Occupational Therapist Cho-Lee Ng.
Payroll evidence showed that she had increased her work hours the accident whereas her accounts to the experts were that she had reduced her work hours post-accident.
All three experts – when confronted such records and social media vision – agreed they revealed an entirely different situation to what the claimant had described to them.
The video footage showed her running, kicking and heading the ball while playing in 18 Division I soccer games during 2021 and wrestling with her brother in a jumping castle before sliding down a slide on her back and then landing heavily.
The CTP insurer tendered a video compilation of those and other activities taken from the plaintiffs Instagram account.
Baldock-Davis answered these criticisms by saying that she engaged in such activities for their social value and paid the price of severe pain after each such event.
The court was not impressed.
“I have significant reservations about the reliability of Ms Baldock-Davis’ evidence as to the nature and severity of her symptoms and their impact on her capacity to undertake activities of daily living,” Justice Cooper observed.
“I have formed the view that she has, whether consciously or not, overstated those effects. I do not accept that Ms Baldock-Davis’ accident injuries restricted her in the manner and to the extent she stated in her evidence”.
He assessed general damages at $21,510.00 and nothing for future loss of earning capacity. The total award at just $40,635.44 was lower than the amount offered by the insurer, resulting in an order that she must pay its costs on the standard basis from March 2021 when presumably mandatory offers had been exchanged.
The sum that was previously offered to her is not referred to in the judgment.