A man has been awarded €88,406 damages by a High Court judge who found he sustained a "significant" neck injury as a result of his vehicle being rear-ended at a roundabout in Limerick.
Joseph Mulcahy (57), of Gormanstown, Bulgaden, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, had sued Alphonsus Clifford (92), of Well Park, Garryowen, Limerick, over the accident on November 11th, 2016.
Mr Mulcahy claimed he had stopped his Opel Astra car at the Tipperary roundabout on Ballysimon Road and was awaiting an opportunity to move onto the roundabout when his vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Mr Clifford.
Mr Clifford, who was on his way to make his daily visit to his wife’s grave, disputed that account. He said he was stopped in the right-hand lane at the mouth of the roundabout, also waiting to proceed onto it, when Mr Mulcahy’s car suddenly veered over the left lane and collided with the front, passenger-side of his car, in the region of the front wheel arch and bumper.
In his recently published judgment, Mr Justice Anthony Barr noted Mr Mulcahy accepted the impact to his car was not severe, with repairs costing €600, but alleged, as a result of the accident, he suffered significant injury to his neck and lower back and a pre-existing condition of depression and anxiety was exacerbated.
Liability was contested between the parties and there was also considerable dispute as to the cause of Mr Mulcahy’s ongoing symptoms in his neck and lower back, having regard to his pre-accident medical history.
The judge said damage to the defendant’s car, “while not great”, was a little more severe than to Mr Mulcahy’s car. The defence motor assessor had conceded that certain damage could only have occurred if the front wheels of the defendant’s vehicle were turned at an angle at the point of impact.
Having regard to a Garda sketch of the scene, which showed Mr Mulcahy’s vehicle was not on the roundabout but was stopped at its mouth and fully within the right-hand lane, the defendant’s version of what happened “cannot possibly be correct”, the judge held.
He also accepted the Garda’s evidence that, when he spoke to Mr Clifford at the scene, the latter was unsure of the circumstances of the accident.
The judge found the collision occurred because the defendant's vehicle rear-ended the plaintiff's vehicle at the mouth of the roundabout, which meant liability for the accident rested with the defendant. There was no question of contributory negligence on the part of Mr Muclahy, he added.
Having considered medical evidence, the judge accepted Mr Mulcahy’s pre-existing neck condition was significantly worsened as a result of the trauma sustained in the accident.
He accepted Mr Mulcahy’s pain and resulting disability is such he has decided to have surgery despite there being no guarantee it will significantly improve his symptoms. Even if the surgery is regarded as successful, it will only give partial relief of his neck symptoms, he added.
He said Mr Mulcahy will also have some ongoing back pain into the future but noted he had not overstated the lower back pain. While Mr Mulcahy’s pre-existing mental health issues were exacerbated in the years following the accident, they had resolved in about 2020 to their pre-existing baseline, he said.
He awarded €50,000 and €25,000 damages respectively for pain and suffering to date and into the future. With special damages, the total award was €88,406.