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Claimant cut from car sustained injuries that were inherently improbable

Rasheed v Percival
Birmingham County Court
25.5.16
Before HHJ Worcester

A Claimant, who suggested that she had been injured in a manner that was “inherently improbable”, saw her claim for personal injury dismissed, together with her claims for hire, recovery and storage. In the ‘light’ impact between her vehicle and the Defendant’s vehicle, the Claimant had suggested that she had sustained injuries that had initially rendered her unable to move and incapable of working for 7 months. 

DWF Solicitor, Kathryn Walmsley, who acted for Markerstudy in the defence of the proceedings, looks at this pre-QOCS case, where liability was in dispute. Although the Claimant had been cut from her car by emergency services and had submitted herself for an MRI, the Judge did not accept that the Claimant was injured as she had claimed.

Background

The claim arose from an accident which occurred on 24 January 2012. The Claimant was driving her vehicle along a main road, when the Defendant pulled out of a petrol station and into collision with her vehicle.

The Claimant alleged that she was injured in the accident and claimed compensation for those injuries and the Claimant relied upon a medical report that provided for the Claimant to have made a full recovery in respect of her neck and back injuries, within 14 and 16 months respectively of the accident taking place. The Claimant also made a claim for special damages in the sum of £13,349.80, comprising hire charges, storage and recovery charges, loss of earnings and miscellaneous expenses.

Liability was denied by the Defendant and the Claimant was put to strict proof of her claim. The claim was tried before His Honour Judge Worster on 25 May 2016, in the County Court at Birmingham.

Facts

The Claimant’s evidence was that she was travelling along the road on approach to a petrol station, when suddenly and without warning, the Defendant pulled out from the petrol station forecourt, into her path. The Claimant suggested that the Defendant was looking in the opposite direction as she approached. She was unable to avoid a collision due to the presence of parked cars on both sides of the road.

In respect of quantum, the Claimant’s case was that she had been suffering from severe pain to her neck and back following the accident, however, her hospital records stated that she attended complaining of neck pain and an abrasion to her thumb.  In addition, the Claimant’s GP records only made reference to back pain.  Upon examination by the medical expert, the Claimant was reported to have neck and back pain but the expert found no objective findings of any injury to the neck.  Although the Claimant initially attended for physiotherapy, she ceased to continue to attend, and no explanation was provided by the Consulting Physiotherapist for her absence in this regard.

The Claimant, who was 22 at the time of the collision, suggested that as a result of her accident related injuries, she was unable to work for a period of seven months post-accident (incurring a loss of earnings), took various painkillers and underwent an MRI scan, which showed the Claimant’s vertebrae to be ‘normal’.

The Defendant’s evidence was that she was exiting the forecourt of the petrol station, with the intention of turning right onto the main road and was edging her vehicle forwards, out into the main road. A vehicle to her left stopped to allow, the Defendant to continue to turn right. As the Defendant was edging her vehicle forwards, she observed the Claimant’s vehicle travelling towards her, from her right, at which point she stopped. The Claimant then attempted to drive around the front of the Defendant’s vehicle, clipping the stationary vehicle in the process.

In terms of vehicle damage, the Defendant’s evidence was that the bottom of her vehicle’s front bumper sustained paint transfer from the Claimant’s vehicle (which was subsequently removed with T-Cut), and the Claimant’s vehicle sustained a small crack to the front bumper.

Neither the Defendant nor her son (who was a passenger in the vehicle) were injured as a result of the vehicles coming into contact with each other.

Following the collision, the parties moved their vehicles onto the petrol station forecourt and exited their vehicles.  The Claimant refused to provide her details to the Defendant, and walked into the petrol station to obtain a pen and paper for the Defendant to provide her details. 

At this point, the Claimant returned to sit in her vehicle and stated that several minutes later that ‘her whole body froze and that she was unable to move’.  This necessitated in the emergency services attending the scene of the collision and the Fire Service cutting the vehicle open to enable Paramedics to remove the Claimant from the vehicle, before being taken to hospital.

Findings

Giving Judgment and dismissing the claim, His Honour Justice Worster held that:-

  • There were features of the Claimant’s case which caused him concern.

  • The Claimant claimed to have been injured in a manner which appeared to be inherently improbable.

  • Less improbable, but also in his view still improbable is that a light impact could cause severe and long lasting pain in circumstances where the Defendant suffered no injury.

  • The Claimant’s evidence, when pressed, was not convincing as to why she ceased physiotherapy.

  • There were numerous inconsistencies in the Claimant’s evidence.

  • The Claimant, aged 22, was off work for a period of approximately 7 months, took various tablets and submitted herself to an MRI Scan, which was a ‘puzzling picture’.

  • The Defendant, when giving evidence, was assessed as ‘entirely frank and honest’ and was ‘amongst the most convincing witnesses’ the Judge had seen.

  • It would have been sensible for the Claimant to have stopped her vehicle to allow the Defendant’s vehicle to turn right, instead of trying to drive around the Defendant’s vehicle.

  • The damage sustained to the vehicles was ‘minor’ and caused as a result of the vehicles ‘clipping’, as described by the Defendant; had the collision occurred as the Claimant described, he would have expected significantly more damage to the vehicle.

  • The Defendant was not negligent in the circumstances and therefore the claim failed.

  • The more difficult issue was the consequences of the collision, which caused him a ‘real sense of unease’ when considering the Claimant’s evidence and that it was highly improbable that this incident caused the injuries alleged.

Owing to the age of the claim, the Claimant did not have the benefit of QOCS protection.  Having dismissed the claim, His Honour Justice Worster ordered that the Claimant pay the Defendant’s costs, which were assessed at £10,317.76.

Comment

This was a case where numerous inconsistencies were highlighted in the Claimant’s evidence, which casted significant doubt as to her credibility before the Judge.

Whilst the Claimant lost her case on liability, her case on quantum caused the Judge concern. The alleged symptoms were out of all proportion to the nature of the collision, especially considering that neither the Defendant, nor her son were injured in the impact.

This is an extremely robust decision from the Judge. It was not in dispute that the Claimant had been cut from her car following that collision, yet the Judge considered the other inconsistencies in the Claimant’s evidence and the accident damage when he came to form a picture of the true nature of the collision.

Markerstudy estimate that the claim would have been worth c£43,000 had they lost at Trial.

Contact

For further information, please contact Kathryn Walmsley, Solicitor on 0121 200 0483.

By Kathryn Walmsley

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This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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