A woman whose car was hit from behind by another while she was sitting at red traffic lights has been awarded over half a million dollars in damages.
Kelly Maher was waiting at traffic lights in Canberra on 16 October 2017 when her vehicle was hit from behind by another driven by Juanita Russell while she was estimated to have been travelling at 30 km/h, a recently-released ACT Supreme Court judgement says.
Personal injury proceedings began and Ms Russell’s insurer, Insurance Australia Limited trading as NRMA Insurance, admitted liability for the accident, but disputed the amount of damages.
Ms Maher sought about $970,000, but the defendants argued about $193,000 was appropriate.
In her judgement, Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson said she found Ms Maher to be “compelling and truthful” when talking about her post-accident injuries and the impact they had on her life.
Ms Maher had been suffering from fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes pain in muscles and bones, but couldn’t recall any significant symptoms before the accident.
Afterwards, she said she struggled to drive due to the pain she was in. She reported ongoing pain in her neck and spine, pain in her jaw, a weak left arm, reduced movement and “almost … never-ending flare-up[s] of [her] fibromyalgia aches and pains”.
Justice Loukas-Karlsson said her evidence was broadly supported by medical records.
Ms Maher’s GP, who continued to treat her injuries after she moved from Canberra to Merimbula on the NSW South Coast, said she could not recall a time when her patient’s condition had been completely resolved.
Justice Loukas-Karlsson also said Ms Maher’s symptoms impacted on her work.
When it came to damages, Justice Loukas-Karlsson said the defendants had argued the long-term impacts of Ms Maher’s injuries were less serious than her lawyers submitted, as well as that her injuries had in part been caused by non-compensable events.
But she said the evidence of experts was Ms Maher was suffering from chronic conditions and it was unlikely there would be any significant improvement.
She ultimately awarded Ms Maher a total of about $510,000 in damages. This included general damages, medical expenses, domestic assistance and economic loss.