High Court: Garda awarded €52,000 for 2002 car crash

A member of the Gardaí has been awarded €52,000 in respect of a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) that occurred in the performance of his duties in 2002. In the High Court judgment, Mr Justice Bernard Barton accepted that ongoing injuries were unrelated to the RTA, and were largely aggrivated by an assault in 1998 for which the Garda had previously been awarded €100,000.


On the 17th March 2002 the stationary patrol car in which Garda Justin Brown (45) was sitting was struck from behind by another vehicle, the violence of which caused the deployment of the airbag. He was removed from the scene in an ambulance to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar, where he was assessed and treated.

The Court heard that the physical injuries sustained “whilst essentially soft tissue in nature also involved a significant aggravation of a pre accident chronic lower back condition which had resulted from a very serious assault in 1998 (the assault), following which Garda Brown had also suffered a post traumatic stress disorder”. In 2005, Garda Brown brought proceedings arising out of the assault, in which he was awarded €100,000.

Ongoing injuries

In the months subsequent to the accident, apart from suffering from “ongoing neck pain with limitation of neck movement, chest, back and right leg discomfort as well as frontal headaches”, Garda Brown developed “psychological sequelae of fatigue, sleep disturbance, nightmares, flashbacks, a tendency to ruminate, and anxiety”. In addition “he had become very nervous when travelling by car or in circumstances and situations where he perceived a risk of confrontation”.

Specialist Physician Dr Slattery examined, treated and reported on Garda Brown in respect of the injuries resulting from both the assault and the RTA.

Dr Slattery was of the opinion that the back injuries arising from the assault had been aggravated by the RTA, and that approximately 20% of Garda Brown’s ongoing back symptomology was attributable to the RTA

The Court also heard that Dr Slattery prognosticated that despite the combined effect of the new and the old injuries, Garda Brown would be able to perform his duties as a police officer until normal retirement.

Garda Brown gave evidence that it was his intention to serve until retirement, which Justice Barton stated was an attitude that went to his credit.

Whilst still experiencing feelings of back and neck discomfort, Garda Brown “hadn’t had to attend Dr Slattery for any form of medical treatment since 2013” – and “fairly accepted… that he had essentially recovered well from any injuries caused as a result of the RTA, that such problems as he had were low grade and that these principally related to his back”

Assessment of Damages

The 2005 assessment of damages in respect of the injuries resulting from the assault proceeded on the premise that Garda Brown’s back injuries and the consequences of those both in the past and for the future were attributable as to 10% to causes which were not trauma related, 70% to the assault and 20% to the RTA.

Dr Slattery confirmed in evidence that he remained of this opinion.

Expert witness for the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure, Dr O’Neill, considered there to be no objective signs of continuing trauma, submitting that any ongoing problems were “nothing to do with the RTA”. Justice Barton accepted that evidence, finding that the contribution of the injuries caused by the RTA to an. symptomology experienced three to four years after that event was minimal.

Applying “the well settled principles of Tort law to the assessment of general compensation”, Garda Brown was awarded €50,000 for “the soft tissue back injuries and aggravation of the pre existing back condition together with the soft tissue and psychological injuries otherwise arising as a result of the RTA”.

Adding to this the pecuniary expenses agreed between the parties, the total award to Garda Brown was the sum of €52,556.59.

  • by Seosamh Gráinséir for Irish Legal News
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