Accident Victims & Their Rescuers

When we think of motor vehicle victims, we usually assume that we are talking about injured pedestrians or passengers who are injured in the motor vehicle accident. The reason we pay compulsory third party insurance is to ensure that those who are injured in motor vehicle accidents through no fault of their own, have legal redress to compensation for their injuries.

A recent decision in the Supreme Court of Queensland has the potential to significantly expand those eligible to pursue CTP claims and may lead to an increase in claims by witnesses, first responders and other professionals who are not directly involved in the motor vehicle accident but who may have rendered assistance in the aftermath of the accident.

In the case of Caffrey –v– Suncorp Insurance, a police officer attended the scene of an accident in circumstances where the car driver had veered off the road and collided with a tree, before succumbing to his injuries. There were no other vehicles involved.

The police officer co-ordinated the police response and had the unfortunate responsibility of advising the parents of the deceased driver when they arrived at the accident scene shortly afterwards.

As a result of being exposed to this very traumatic situation, the police officer suffered psychiatric injuries including PTSD and eventually retired from the force on medical grounds. He sued Suncorp who was the compulsory third party insurer for the driver of the car.

Suncorp argued that the deceased driver did not owe a duty of care to the police officer given that he was attending the accident scene as part of his responsibilities as a police officer and should have been equipped with the training and coping mechanisms to deal with the situation.

The Court rejected that argument and found that the deceased driver did have a duty of care to the police officer and should be held responsible for the officer's psychiatric injuries in attending the accident scene in circumstances where the need to attend the scene was caused by the manner in which the deceased had been driving his vehicle.

Suncorp have appealed the decision which will be heard later this year.

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