Being in a motor vehicle accident can change a person’s entire life.
Accident-related injuries can lead to expensive treatment, painful recovery, and restricted ability to go about day-to-day life.
Sometimes, though, an injury can seem much worse to the injured person than it is. People can exaggerate their situation, sometimes without meaning to.
Find out why a judge slashed Karen’s* compensation claim because of her tendency to exaggerate.
Karen was a 49-year-old single woman living on the Sunshine Coast, working full-time as a bus driver.
She stayed fit and led a very social life.
She planned to keep driving buses until she was at least 70 years old – even past 70 if she could.
Unfortunately, Karen’s life was turned upside down when she was involved in a bus vs car accident.
One Tuesday morning, Karen was driving a bus just like any other workday.
She was following the set route when she approached a roundabout.
As she came closer, a Holden Commodore that was driving through the roundabout suddenly lost control.
The Commodore collided with Karen's bus, ricocheted off and came to a stop on the median strip.
Karen was shaken. She was taken back to the bus depot when she started to feel pain in her neck.
Later that night, her lower back started hurting.
By the next day, she also had pain in her shoulders and arms, and her back was feeling restricted.
Over two years later, Karen still had chronic pain and was being treated for symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Karen's story is not uncommon.
Injuries often take months, even years to present themselves. An definitely closer to the latter to finally resolve themselves.
The trouble with that delay in time is two-fold.
Karen brought a personal injuries claim for compensation against the CTP (compulsory third party) insurer of the Commodore driver.
Karen’s claim was for nearly $1 million.
The CTP insurer admitted that the Commodore driver was at fault for the accident.
However, it didn’t agree with the amount of compensation Karen was claiming.
The insurer argued that Karen had a history of exaggerating.
They claimed that since Karen tended to overstate things, she was probably exaggerating the loss she had suffered.
The Judge thought about what the insurer was saying, and had a good look at Karen’s history of exaggerating.
Karen’s version of events: Karen said the collision was “high impact” and that she was “holding the steering wheel trying to control the bus”.
The evidence: CCTV footage from the bus showed that Karen moved only slightly in her seat at the moment of impact. She then steered the bus towards the kerb and stopped the bus.
Karen’s version of events: Karen said that the Commodore hit her bus twice – once at the front of the bus, and then again at the back of the bus.
The evidence: Photographs of the bus showed there was only one dent in the bus, suggesting just one impact.
Karen’s version of events: Karen said that the collision “pushed the bus to the side” by about half a metre.
The evidence: CCTV footage from the bus shows the collision caused only a slight shudder.
Karen’s version of events: Karen said she had no ongoing trouble before the crash from previous injuries.
The evidence: Karen’s ex-husband (who was still living with Karen before and after the accident) said that Karen had a right shoulder injury that stopped her from doing some things, such as hanging clothes on the clothesline, before the crash.
Karen’s version of events: Karen said her injuries limited her ability to do household chores, and that she needed a lot of assistance. She said that she got a lot of help from her ex-husband and a border that was living with them.
The evidence: Karen’s ex-husband and the border told the Court that they did not give Karen as much help as she said they did.
Karen’s version of events: Karen said would never be able to work again because of her injuries.
The evidence: A medical expert found that Karen was still fit to work. Another expert said that Karen tended to “magnify her condition”.
The Judge found that Karen did tend to exaggerate things.
The Judge decided that Karen was likely to be exaggerating the impact her injuries were having on her life.
Because of this, the Judge did not award as much compensation as Karen was claiming.
Here’s a look at the damages Karen claimed and the amounts she was actually awarded:
Karen was awarded $539,764 in compensation – almost half of what she had requested.
Personal injury claims are designed to compensate injured persons for the loss they have actually suffered.
Karen’s case demonstrates that you cannot claim more than you’ve lost.
There is no way to cheat the system. In fact, trying to cheat the system might just come back to bite you.
Karen wasn’t necessarily trying to cheat the system. It is understandable that she felt the accident was more intense than it was, and that she felt more restricted by her injuries.
But the Judge had to assess her loss objectively, relying on the evidence available.
Consider this: Dropping a coffee just after you’ve bought it might feel like the end of the world. But a passer-by would only see a $5 loss.
In the same way, Karen felt her life was significantly affected. But the Judge assessed Karen’s loss for what it really was.
Since you can only claim your actual loss, it is essential to have evidence to prove that loss accurately.
The Courts will not accept your claim based solely on your word. Equally so, they look favourably on claimant that are well prepared with extensive evidence.
Evidence is king in personal injury claims. Gather evidence to support your claim including:
The trouble for Karen was that she had no evidence to support her claims. Courts operate on the plaintiff (Karen) proving her claim on 'the balance of probabilites'.
Meaning that she needed to show that her claim was more likely than not accurate.
Had her witness testimonies and medical experts supported her claim, she likely would have been facing a different outcome.
Unfortunately, they didn't and she lost half her claim.
* The names and narrative have been altered but the facts of the case in regards to payments, liability and the Judge's findings on the evidence are reported as written in the judgement.