A woman has been awarded €302,000 in High Court damages over a traffic accident which worsened a neck injury she had sustained a few months earlier when she hit her head off an electricity box.
Jo-Ann O'Sullivan (31), Laburnam Grove, Commons Road, Blackpool, Cork, sued over the accident on August 27, 2016 when a car driven by Agnieszka Brozda, Brookville Estate, Glanmire, Co Cork, collided with the rear of a car in which Ms O'Sullivan was a passenger.
Liability was accepted by Ms Brozda and the case was before the court for assessment of damages only.
Mr Justice Anthony Barr today assessed damages at €302,445. Following an application for judgment in that sum by Ms O'Sullivan's counsel Dr John O'Mahony, the judge adjourned to next month the making of formal orders in the case.
The judge said Ms O'Sullivan, who worked in the human resources department of KBC in Dublin at the time, was a "bad candidate" for involvement in a traffic accident as she had just undergone serious surgery on her neck and skull some weeks previously, June 2016.
This surgery was needed after she had, some months earlier in November 2015, struck her head against an electricity box while she was straightening up as she retrieved mail from her post box.
She claimed she was very vulnerable at the time which meant the soft tissue injuries to her neck and shoulders from the road accident were considerably worse than would have been the case.
She claimed headaches she was also suffering from at the time were considerably exacerbated and she continues to experience severe headaches today.
She also said she suffered post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and despite various treatments has been unable to work since 2016.
Ms Brozda's lawyers denied Ms O'Sullivan was injured to the extent she claimed or that there was a serious exacerbation of her post operative condition as a result of what was a minor impact.
The defendant relied on photos of the two cars which did not, it was claimed, show major structural damage to either vehicle. It had only cost €249 to repair the car Ms O'Sullivan was travelling it, Ms Brozda's lawyers also said.
A 'well-motivated person' who was keen to get back to a normal life
Mr Justice Barr did not think it could be extrapolated from the photos that there was not a significant impact. No engineering evidence was called in relation to the forces that may have been transmitted on the impact.
The only evidence of the actual impact was from Ms O'Sullivan who said she felt her head being propelled forward then backwards and struck her head against the headrest in the accident.
The judge preferred the evidence of doctors who examined her closer to the time of the accident.
He also did not think she had been "deliberately catastrophizing" her injuries or symptoms of pain. He accepted evidence of her GP that she was a well-motivated person who was keen to get back to a normal life and return to work.
He was also satisfied she did not attempt to exaggerate her level of disability and she "did not put on an act for the court" by grimacing, rubbing her neck or back or not turning her neck.
He found she has suffered constant and at times severe pain to her neck, shoulders and lower back and also had knee pain as a result of the accident.
He accepted her evidence she had been unfit for work since the accident and that from January 2017 her inability to work was due to the effects of the traffic accident.
She was a young woman who had her life totally disrupted for the last three years and had been rendered considerably disabled during this period, he said..
He awarded general damages to date and into the future of €146,000, loss of earnings to date and for the next two years at €138,795, and special damages of €17,648, a total of €302,445.