Mr Martin, a 39 year old electrician, was involved in a car accident on the Peak Downs Highway, north of Clermont when another vehicle collided into the rear of his Landrover. His vehicle was a ‘write-off’.
He injured his neck and back and had not worked since his accident. He thought of retraining but could not afford to do so.
Mr Martin was a qualified electrical fitter, mechanic and linesman. He trained in the mines. He had wide experience which included domestic, industrial, substantial commercial construction, mining and marine work. Most recently he worked in the specialised high voltage field ( a role where he earned in the order of $2,000 net per week).
Despite that extensive experience he could not find suitable employment after his accident. Consequently, his life deteriorated. After realising he could not return to electrical work he thought he would return to the family farm. That didn’t work out. He then thought he’d work with his son – but his son was subsequently severely injured himself in an unrelated accident.
Mr Martin’s debts mounted, he borrowed from family and he lost the family farm. His family relationships broke down. He then led a life of a nomad: in caravan parks, in shelters and roughing it using a swag.
All of this arose from an injury the experts assessed as only a 5% whole person impairment. The insurer’s position was that such an injury could not possibly result in a significant loss. They thought Mr Martin should be capable of employment. So the matter came before the courts.
The Supreme Court carefully considered the impact the injuries had had on Mr Martin’s working life. It was noted the percentage impairment ratings were a poor guide to disability: that is, the actual impact of an injury on a person’s life.
Against the insurer’s strong opposition (but consistent with the overall weight of the evidence) the court accepted that Mr Martin’s injuries had significantly effected his ability to work and earn an income.
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For more details read the full version of the court judgment: