The Chief Justice de Jersey recently had to decide a case where a 19 year old female dental nurse was involved in a traffic accident on the M1. The driver of the vehicle was killed as well as the motorcyclist and the claim was brought against both parties by Anna-Maria Luppino1.

Background

The Plaintiff had completed Year 10 and left school but not with significant academic results in the scientific orientation. She at the time of the accident was employed as a senior dental nurse earning $808.00 net per week. She was absent from her employment duties from the date of accident on 25 July 2010 to 17 January 2011. She then commenced a return to work but ultimately ceased work due to pain on 7 March 2011.

She then commenced work at Brookside Dental until September 2011 but again ceased work. She attempted Real Estate Agency work but found that too hard and has not worked since.

It was claimed that she wanted to be a dental hygienist. It was held that that occupation was paying about $45.00 to $50.00 gross per hour compared to the $21.00 net she was earning. The Court held that the prospects of that occurring giving her school results was remote.

Dr Andrew Byth, Psychiatrist, confirmed she sustained a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with pronounced associated anxiety and depression. He initially assesses a 7% whole person impairment based on PIRS. However, the Plaintiff also received ongoing Psychological treatment and no updated report had been obtained as to whether that was successful and what the updated assessed impairment would be now.

The Claimant also called evidence from Dr Scott Campbell, Neurosurgeon. He assessed that there was an injury to the back which gave raise to a 7% whole person impairment. Dr Terry Coyne, Neurosurgeon, also had the same finding. The doctors differed as to her capacity for employment.

Dr Scott Campbell assessed she would always be able to work as a dental nurse for 12 hours per week and sedentary work of 10 to 20 hours. Beyond that the pain limited her ability to work.

Dr Terry Coyne felt that she could undertake full time employment in light to sedentary occupations and did not accept this injury would lead to the level of disability she demonstrated. He did concede that there maybe a Psychological aspect contributing to this impairment.

Dr Eadie, Neurologist, also gave evidence and felt there was an overstatement of her physical limitations based on a Waddell test he performed.

The Court held the Plaintiff did subconsciously exaggerate her physical symptoms and therefore, her level of incapacity.

The assessment

The Court determined the injury codes relevant would be Item 93 concerning the lumbar spine as well as Item 12 for the Psychiatric condition. Both have an upper limit of an ISV of 10 and an uplift would apply so the determination was an ISV of 12 which is a monetary amount of $16,250.00.

For past economic loss she was given 25 weeks loss of wages at her current earnings and thereafter, 75% of her pre accident earnings.

On future economic loss a global allowance was assessed at $100,000.00 being equivalent to 2.5 years net earnings plus superannuation.

An allowance for care was assessed on the basis that she did meet the threshold of six hours per week for 26 weeks. For that period it was assessed at eight hours per week and thereafter four hours for the next 12 weeks and thereafter to trial 2.5 hours per week. The rate was agreed at $30.00 per hour.

Future care was assessed for two hours per week to age 70 but reduced by 25% for contingencies.

Conclusion

The Plaintiff may feel hard done by on the basis that she was given a loss of $606.00 per week up to the trial but only 2.5 years of loss of earning capacity for the future. She had a working life of 45 years and the global sum allowed represents about $125.00 net per week over that period. That is only 15% of her pre accident earning capacity.

Whether an Appeal will be lodged by the Plaintiff will be monitored.