What the Court considers when deciding how much compensation to award?

Sabidussi v Young & Anor [2017] QDC 146 is a recent Queensland District Court decision that examines the considerations in play when economic loss cannot be definitively identified.

The incident

Ms Sabidussi (“the plaintiff”), was a front seat passenger in a vehicle driven by friend Ms Raines driving north along David Low Way when the defendant’s oncoming vehicle veered to the right and crossed onto the path of the plaintiff, crashing into vehicle. As a result, Ms Raines died. Ms Sabidussi suffered a major depressive disorder, injury to the spine and injury to the right knee.

Findings

The main issues in this case surround the assessment of past and future economic loss where there is no explicit evidence of financial loss.

Past economic loss

The plaintiff submitted she had originally planned to return to work seven months following the accident; however the defendants contended there was no intention. In this case, the court had to be satisfied, that:

  • The plaintiff suffered a loss of earning capacity
  • The loss of earning capacity is or may be productive of financial loss.[1]

Suffered loss of earning capacity

The defendants argued that Ms Sabidussi did not suffer any impairment to her earning capacity resulting in monetary loss as her intention was to remain home.[2] The Court found that the plaintiff showed a clear intention to return to work, and gave evidence to support that finding including enrolment in a hairdressing course, attempted completion of that course following the accident, and applications to paid employment.[3] In consideration of psychologist opinion of permanent workplace psychological impairment, the court concluded that had it not been for injuries, the plaintiff would have returned to part-time employment a few months after the accident and therefore suffered loss of earning capacity.[4]

Quantum of financial loss from past economic capacity

To quantify financial loss the Court observed the plaintiff’s employment earnings from 2009 to the present. Although difficult to precisely identify as there was no actual date when plaintiff would have returned to paid employment, the court then determined an estimate of weekly income had the plaintiff returned to work, with an overall award of $59,950 for past economic loss.[5]

Future economic loss

The court found that the plaintiff’s loss of future earnings could not be precisely calculated. In this case, the court had to determine that Ms Sabidussi will suffer loss having regard to her age, work history, actual loss or earnings and any permanent impairment and relevant matters.[6]

To assess future economic loss, the court gave regard to the plaintiff’s current age of 39 yrs and years till retirement (being over 25 yrs), pain and discomfort from injuries sustained, psychological symptoms and their effects on finding and maintaining employment, response to medical treatment, and disadvantage of plaintiff in the current condition of the open labour market.[7] The court considered these factors with the earnings from plaintiff’s pre-accident income to arrive at a rounded up figure of $75,000 for future economic loss.

Implications of this decision

This motor vehicle injuries case demonstrates the technicalities used when assessing economic loss where past and future economic loss can not be precisely calculated. It is important to ensure adequate explanation of psychical and psychological effects and limitations, the earning capacity and intention at the time of the accident, and plaintiff’s disadvantaged position in the open labour market.

For more information on Motor Vehicle Accidents, click here

[1] Graham v Baker (1961) 106 CLR 340 at 347; Allianz Australia Insurance Ltd v McCarthy [2012] QCA 312 at [48]-[50].

[2] Ibid [62].

[3] Sabidussi v Young & Anor [2017] QDC 146 at [65]-[66].

[4] Ibid at [68].

[5] Ibid at [70].

[6] Civil Liability Act 2003, s 55.

[7] Sabidussi v Young & Anor [2017] QDC 146 at [84].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *