Anna* was a stay-at-home mum caring for her young children. On a sunny weekend morning, Anna and her best friend Louise went to the Noosa Farmers Markets’. It was one of their weekly rituals.
However, this Sunday their friendship would be tragically cut short.
On 1 December 2013, Anna Tunaboxi and her friend were driving along David Low Way at Sunrise Beach. Anna was in the front passenger seat, when a vehicle travelling the opposite direction suddenly veered right, crossing the double line and into the path of Louise's car. The two vehicles collided in a horrific crash.
Anna's friend was taken by helicopter to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Unfortunately, she died from her injuries. Anna was trapped in the vehicle. The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service tried desperately to cut her free from the crumpled wreckage. She was eventually freed and taken by ambulance to the Nambour General Hospital. As a result of the accident, Anna suffered:
- a soft tissue injury to her back
- an injury to her right knee; and
- chronic depression from the memories she retained of the accident.
Anna brought a claim against the driver of the car to pay for her ongoing medical costs and to replace her lost income as she couldn't return to work.
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The issues to be determined included Anna’s lost future earning capacity, being that she was a stay-at-home mum. Could Anna prove she had suffered a loss of future earning capacity even though she wasn’t working at the date of the accident?
The Insurer’s Story
The solicitors for the insurer were of the opinion that it was Anna’s intention to remain at home caring for her children and not return to paid employment. They said that any impairment Anna has because of her injuries has and will not result in a financial loss.
Anna’s Future Plans
Anna said that she planned to return to work the year following the birth of her second child. A decision that is by no means uncommon... In 2011, the average age of the child at the mother’s return to work was 6.5 months. This statistic supports Anna’s claim of intending to return to work as most mothers in her situation would have done so too.
Anna proved she had intended to enter into paid employment. She said that she had enrolled in a hairdressing course, however, was not able to complete the course as she had trouble concentrating and was unable to complete her first practical examination. Another indication that Anna was intending to return to paid employment is that she did actually apply for a position at Woolworths. However, fearing she wouldn't be able to cope with the demands of the role, she never took it.
The Judge had difficulty accepting the insurer’s argument because Anna had shown a clear intention to return to work by undertaking education and applying for positions. The Judge accepted her evidence that she was keen to get back to work in the year following the birth of her second child. He said she had always been a hard worker. The Judge stated...
The Judge continued…
The Judge found that Anna’s injuries would continue to cause her problems. He awarded her a global assessment for future loss of earnings in the sum of $75,000.00. Ms Tunaboxi's total award was $185,821.05.
MCW Legal's Opinion
The decision of the Court with respect to a global award for future economic loss and what factors need to be taken into account is of great importance. This decision is particularly favourable to ‘stay at home’ mum’s that can prove they have clear intentions to return to paid employment.
Like Anna, it is important that you can show a consistent past employment history and prove that you were a hard worker. If you can also prove a clear intention to return to work (i.e. by undertaking further studies, applying for jobs and/or attempting to return to the workforce) this will assist in your claim for future economic loss. If you attempt to return to work but find you are forced to cease as a result of your accident-related injuries, this looks far more favourable than you not attempting to return to work at all.
Typically in cases, the award for loss of earnings for future loss would be worked out by a mathematical calculation. That is a loss per week. Where that is not possible global awards are made. Below are some of the factors that need to be taken into account with assessments of a global amount for future economic loss:
- The person’s age
- The ongoing symptoms, pain and discomfort
- The person’s past employment history
- Whether a person is likely to respond to treatment
- Whether the person is disadvantaged in the open labour market
This decision is a positive outcome for mothers that are not working at the time of an accident. Mother's shouldn't be any less advantaged when seeking damages for future economic loss, just because they have sacrificed their careers to care for their children. Anna’s case sets a precedence that mother’s with a clear intent to return to work should not have their future earning capacity overlooked just because they are ‘unemployed’.
Written by Ashley Tulley | Chief Commercial Officer
*The names and narrative have been slightly altered in the interests of those concerned, the judgement and facts are as reported. This is not legal advice. If you need legal advice you should speak to a lawyer. You can request the actual trial judgement by phoning 1300 855 103.