How we obtained compensation to an injured motorcyclist after road resurfacing: Real Life Example

This is a summary of a real case. 

 

Our client’s accident happened on a recently resurfaced road. No one else was present and no other vehicle was involved.  We invested in excess of $10,000 to obtain expert opinion which proved that the resurfacing was poorly done. We then successfully built a case against the road construction company and the local council which owned the road.

 

We recovered $280,000 in compensation for our motorcyclist client.

 

Scenario 

Our client was an experienced motorcyclist. He would ride his motorbike every day to and from work. He would also regularly participate in motorcycling group events on weekends. He was also the main breadwinner of the family, raising two daughters with his wife. 

 

One day he was on his way home from work, taking his usual route with his motorbike. 

 

He approached a roadworks area. He observed the signage with advised to slow down. The signage also indicated that there could be gravel on the road surface. 

 

Our client observed the road had recently been resurfaced. He slowed down appropriately, and indeed was riding his motorbike below the advised speed limit. 

 

As our client was approaching a left hand turn, all of a sudden he noticed that there was an increasing amount of gravel on the road. He slowed down even further to commence turning left with his motorbike. 

 

As our client was negotiating the left hand turn, he suddenly lost control of his motorbike and it slid out from underneath him. 

 

Within a split second, our client found himself lying on the road, with what turned out to be a broken ankle, a broken elbow and a shoulder injury.

 

This photo was taken shortly after the accident, in the hospital.

 

Out client’s injuries and Aftermath

After an emergency surgery, our client was released from hospital. However, he remained bed ridden for a while, and he was cared for at home by his wife and his daughters. 

 

He was unable to attend to personal hygiene, to make himself food, to attend to household chores, and to return to work. The recovery process would be slow and frustrating. 

 

Why our client came to see us

Our client came to us because he felt that the accident was not his fault, but he was not certain of his rights. After all, there was no other vehicle involved. Our client did not know how he can claim compensation in a situation where there was no other driver to blame. Our client sought our legal advice whether he would be eligible for any compensation in this scenario. 

 

The other issue for our client was that he was running out of money. He had only so much paid sick leave which would run out very quickly. He was uncertain how he would support his family and how he would service the mortgage payments. 

 

How we helped our client

Our immediate concern was to ensure that our client does not run out of money. 

 

Because our client’s accident happened on his way home from work, we advised our client that he should claim his weekly wages from WorkCover Queensland. We made a WorkCover claim on our client’s behalf, and argued that this was essentially a work accident. WorkCover accepted the claim, and started paying our client’s weekly wages, and also attended to the payment of medical bills. 

Council and construction company liable to our client 

We also advised our client that both the construction company and the local council (which owned the road) owed him a duty of care. The duty was to take reasonable steps to prevent our client from suffering personal injury whilst using the road as a motorcyclist. 

 

However, we also advised our client that we will need to prove that the construction company and the local council breached this duty in order to secure compensation payments. 

 

How we proved that the construction company and council were at fault

Shortly after the accident we tracked down a witness who took photos of the accident scene less than 24 hours after the accident occurred. We noticed that the road surface had been swept clean, but we also noticed gravel pushed to the side of the road. We became suspicious that the road was swept clean so swiftly after the accident

 

 

We then approached the Queensland Police, and visited the photographic branch. We ascertained that a QPS officer did in fact attend sometime after the accident and took some photos of the accident scene, but again, it looked as though the gravel had already been pushed to the side. 

 

We then hired an expert engineer in road resurfacing. 

 

Our engineer visited the scene, and then wrote a detailed report (some hundred pages). 

 

In short, our engineer determined that:

  • gravel is used in road resurfacing (we knew that…)
  • it was normal for there to be some excess gravel after road resurfacing;
  • gravel bonds to the new surface within 12-24 hours after the work is finished;
  • any excess gravel should be removed from the site immediately after that time period. 

 

We then continued our investigations and found out that the roadworks had been completed some 5 days before our client’s accident, but the excess gravel had not been removed. 

 

In addition, we also found out that the construction company never took any steps to properly determine how much excess gravel was left on the road surface when the road works were completed.  (There are in fact industry accepted methods to “count” the excess gravel, but they failed to apply those methods).

 

We were able to prove that the construction company was careless because they failed to remove the excess gravel in time. Had they removed the excess gravel, our client’s accident accident would not have happened. They breached their duty of care

 

We also found that the local council never did anything to check on the condition of the road or whether the gravel had been removed. They failed to issue appropriate warnings to road users such as our client. The council also  breached its duty of care

 

Our client’s medical condition 

We have also obtained an expert report from a medical specialist. He expressed the view that our client’s shoulder and elbow injuries would cause our client permanent impairment. Our client’s ability to perform his pre injury occupation was impaired as a result of this accident.

 

Even though our client did return to work after the accident,  we proved that our client was likely to lose income in the future and that he would experience disadvantage on the open labour market. 

 

Settlement

After we obtained all evidence, we invited the lawyers for the council and the road construction company to sit down with us to negotiate a settlement. We then negotiated a compensation payout for our client.