Coast lawyer’s mammoth fight for $3m crash payout
A SUNSHINE Coast lawyer has won a mammoth legal battle against a top insurance company that resulted in a $3 million payout for her injured client after a horror car crash.
Slater and Gordon Birtinya lawyer Nicola Thompson put up a long fight against CTP insurer RACQ after a 2013 crash left Mason Lee, now 23, wheelchair-bound and suffering tetraplegia.
A Supreme Court decision in 2017 blamed an underage Mr Lee for the crash after his blood was found on the driver's seat airbag, but the truth was finally proven yesterday which resulted in a $3.3 million payout.
"It was a tricky decision and we all knew what we were up against to make an appeal but we knew we had a strong case and that the family needed justice to be able to move on and recover together," Ms Thompson said.
The family, who are originally from Taiwan, were holidaying on North Stradbroke Island when they collided with an oncoming car.
DNA evidence presented in court showed he was the driver and despite appealing the decision, he lost.
His lawyers, Slater and Gordon, were then granted special leave to appeal in the High Court.
The High Court yesterday ruled that Mr Lee was in the back seat with his two younger brothers at the time of the crash, while his father was driving.
"I was actually asleep during the car ride and when I woke up I was lying on the ground. I couldn't lift my arms and legs," Mr Lee said.
"People were telling me not to move my neck. I think I passed out from the pain and woke up in hospital. I could only move my toes at first and it has taken years of physio in hospitals and hydrotherapy before I could walk on crutches to maintain the level of movement I have."
Mr Lee was awarded $3,350,000 in damages to cover his rehabilitation expenses, loss of wages and future expenses. RACQ was also ordered to pay Mr Lee's legal costs.
The High Court found that the teenager's blood had ended up on the airbag by way of transfer, after his father cradled his son's bleeding face.
As Mason's mother was trapped in the front passenger seat, his father had to climb through the driver's side to check on her, causing his hands to brush past the airbag.
"We have been waiting for this day, there was a lot of anticipation. We didn't know what was ahead," Mr Lee said.
Ms Thompson, said Mr Lee and his family, who have been caring for him since the accident, were relieved that his claim was successful.
"It's been a difficult and challenging road to get where we are, and Mason and his family are very happy with the High Court decision," she said.
"Mason will now be able to receive the assistance and equipment he needs for the rest of his life, including a wheelchair, walking aids, rehabilitation and home modifications.
"This week's decision will provide them with certainty that Mason will receive high quality care, as previously they couldn't afford a carer and this will now be an option to them.
Ms Thompson said if the appeal had not been successful, the family faced fraud charges through the Motor Accident Insurance Commission.