Female train driver successfully sues for half a million dollars after zebra crossing accident


In this post we will base our story* on a real case (RACQ Insurance Ltd v Brennan [2013] QCA 150) on how a female train driver was able to successfully prove the accident lost her a chance at building a better career. Learn the pieces of evidence that were crucial to her claim.

Vicky's Story

Let me introduce you to Vicky Bedford. 

Vicky was a busy 32 year old woman at the beginning of her career as a train driver. She was working for a sugar mill in Proserpine.  

She still lived in her hometown of Mackay and loved the life she was creating for herself.

Vicky was close with her family. She adored her mum and her sister, Francine,  was like her best friend. She was lucky enough that they both still lived close by.

Vicky was motivated and keen to carve out a prosperous career.

Vicky dreamt of working in the mines.

She had hope for the future. She was building a profitable career and was keen to give herself financial stability.


VICKY's Dream

"I would love to work for QR National or Pacific National as a train driver.
The money is so good and I really feel it would be quite a prestigious job."  

Vicky was in line for her job promotion until…

She was struck by a speeding car.

It was a sunny day in the heart of Mackay CBD and Vicky was out shopping with her mum. As they crossed the road at the zebra crossing outside Subway, a reckless driver in a station wagon hit Vicky and narrowly missed her mum.

Vicky was catapulted some 7-10 meters into the air - landing in a  bloody heap on the hot bitumen.

Lucky to be alive, Vicky was rushed to the local hospital with several traumatic injuries to different parts of the body including her:

  • Left Shoulder;
  • Lower back;
  • Head; and
  • minus

As a result of the accident, Vicky also developed a significant psychological condition.

She had to take 3 months off work.

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Vicky felt frustrated and hopeless.

She was completely reliant on her co-workers to cover most of her work.

She was fortunate to have a sympathetic employer who accommodated her special remedial needs but her dream to work in the mining industry as a train driver was now out of reach.

No one deserves to have their career cut short because of someone's careless actions.

The government thankfully recognises this and has put in place a Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance scheme to compensate people like Vicky who are injured in an accident.

What is the CTP insurance scheme? 

Click to reveal it's definition

CTP Insurance Scheme

People like Vicky can raise a claim against the insurer of the at-fault driver to replace their lost income and superannuation.

However, as with all CTP claims, Vicky had to prove to the Court that she had lost income and future earnings because of the accident.  

For Vicky to succeed, she had to definitively prove that she would have had a successful career as a train driver.

The most significant part of Vicky’s claim was the loss incurred to her future career as a train driver.

All Vicky needed to do was provide enough evidence that the court could see she would have been able to pave a successful and profitable career as a train driver.

The evidence that Vicky presented included:

  • Pay slips of her income before the accident ($800 per week);
  • Pay slips of her income after the accident;
  • Pay slips of her colleague who got a job as a driver in the mine that proved a significantly higher pay level was possible ($3,600 per week);
  • minus
    Reference from her employers of her good work performance and ambition; 
  • minus
    Verbal evidence from a train driver in the mining industry that there was high demand for train drivers;
  • minus
    Verbal evidence from a mining company that they frequently hire female drivers, even inexperienced ones; and 
  • minus
    Verbal evidence from doctors that Vicky was unable to work to her fullest capacity after the accident. 

This collection of evidence proved that Vicky had lost income as a result of the accident.

It also confirmed that Vicky’s claims were correct that she could have earned significantly more throughout her career. The evidence from her colleague that secured a job in the mines highlighted that she could have earned up to $2,800 more than what she was earning at the time of the accident.

Together this evidence was very compelling and the judge awarded Vicky $411,000 for her lost career as a train driver.

In total Vicky received $528, 925.26 in compensation.

But they hit a snag, the insurer appealed the judge's decision.

The insurer felt that the award for Vicky’s future earning as a train driver was grossly excessive.

The insurer argued a sum of $100,000 was appropriate for her lost career considering:

  • Vicky had not been looking for higher paid work at the time of the accident;
  • The higher paying work might not have been available; and
  • It was uncertain whether she would have been prepared to leave her home town to pursue a career in the mines.

Of course, Vicky’s initial evidence was strong. There was demand for drivers in the mines and references from her employer said she was a highly motivated individual.

The appellant judge dismissed the insurer's claims that Vicky would not have been able to secure a promotion. 


Chief Justice

"The [Trial] Judge has done the best he could … [For me] to have pretended to have greater accuracy [in determining future income loss] would have been both inappropriate and false. I would order that the appeal be dismissed."

Vicky's evidence won her the compensation she deserved.

This case shows that if you can illustrate to the court you were a capable employee with ambitions to progress further in your career the Court will compensate you for the loss you have incurred.

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Evidence that can be important to prove the likelihood of promotion includes:

  • Pay slips from past and current employers
  • Reference from employers on work ethic and likelihood of promotion
  • Testimonies from recruiters in the industry about employment prospects
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    Data on average salaries of workers in the desired job  

Tip 1

Evidence, Evidence, Evidence!

You must be able to support claims in court with credible evidence. 

These pieces of evidence are easy to collect but so pivotal in the outcome of claims, as was proven in Vicky's case. 

Written by Ashley Tulley | Chief Commerical Officer

* The names and narrative have been altered but the  facts of the case in regards to payments, liability and the Judge's findings on the evidence are reported as written in the judgement.