A Canberra woman who witnessed a pedestrian being run over in a car park is eligible for compensation from the driver, the ACT Supreme Court has found.
- The woman saw a man struck by a car in Canberra in November 2016
- The court heard she was so shocked by the incident she got lost on the way home
- Justice John Burns found the driver was negligent in his duty of care to the woman as a bystander
Justice John Burns awarded the woman $176,000 for witnessing the accident in the underground car park of the Canberra Outlet Centre in Fyshwick in November 2016.
Justice Burns found as a consequence of the driver’s negligence, the woman developed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was therefore eligible for compensation.
The court heard, in November 2016, a driver reversed a vehicle into a man in the Fyshwick car park, knocking him to the ground.
According to court documents, the woman had been getting into her car when she heard a scream for help.
She looked over to see a man’s head and one of his arms protruding from under the vehicle, with his head very close to the wheel.
She ran to help, waving her arms to tell the driver to stop, and believed the man had been killed as he had stopped screaming.
Fortunately, the man was not badly injured.
Justice Burns said the woman’s action in running to the pedestrian’s aid may have prevented worse injury.
Drivers owe a duty of care to collision onlookers, court finds
The court heard the woman was so shocked from witnessing the accident that she became lost on the way home and had to call her husband for directions.
Days later, she suffered more problems, such as unexpected crying, not sleeping, and not being able to focus or remember things.
She took time off work but when she returned, she continued to be nervous, easily agitated, wary of cars moving about her, and socially withdrawn.
The court heard the woman sought help and was diagnosed with PTSD.
Earlier this year the woman launched legal action in the ACT Supreme Court alleging negligence against the driver for not paying attention while driving and not keeping the car under proper control.
But the defence argued that the driver did not owe her a duty of care, had not breached any duty, denied she had suffered an injury as claimed, and that the pedestrian was guilty of contributory negligence.
Justice Burns found in the woman’s favour and awarded her $176,000 for non-economic loss, lost wages and medical expenses.
“I am satisfied that the first defendant owed the plaintiff a relevant duty of care not to cause her mental harm,” his judgement said.
“I am satisfied that he breached that duty when he reversed the [car] without reasonable care, striking [the pedestrian] and causing him to fall to the ground under the rear of the [vehicle].