A Canberra public servant who was injured in a low speed rear-end crash has won a $390,000 payout, overcoming allegations she faked the injury and was simply ''jumping on the Comcare gravy train".
The woman was a passenger in a car that was waiting at a roundabout to turn right from Anzac Parade onto Parkes Way in March 2007.
The driver behind her was looking to the right, at oncoming traffic, when she saw a large gap.
She took her foot off the brake and accelerated slightly, wrongly assuming the car in front of her had already entered the roundabout.
She ''bumped'' into the car, causing a crash that left only minor damage to the vehicles.
But the woman gave evidence that she was sitting awkwardly, and twisted to the left when the collision occurred. Later that day, she began to complain of feeling "nauseous and headachy" to her husband, who had been driving the car.
She woke the next morning feeling stiff and sore in her neck. Her lower back was aching, and she was experiencing headaches.
That began years of severe neck pain, less serious back pain, and repeated headaches, for which she was prescribed a ''cocktail of medication'', forcing her away from work for long stretches over a number of years. She was prescribed large amounts of painkillers, and had numerous injections of a nerve blocking drug into her neck and lower back.
The ordeal renewed her pre-existing depressive illness, and in October 2009, she suffered her worst depressive illness since the accident, resulting in hospitalisation in February 2010.
She was deemed at risk of self-harm or suicide, but her depression lifted some months later, and she was able to successfully return to work in October 2010, resuming full-time work by March 2011. One of the pain killers she was prescribed, Norspan, was found to have exacerbated her depression. The court heard that when she found out about Norspan's effects, "she told her doctors to 'jam' their medications in a certain place''.
She sued the other driver for damages in March 2010, and Comcare took up her case soon after.
But the defendant, although admitting liability, challenged the amount of damages being sought.
The defendant pointed to evidence of the minor nature of the crash, saying it showed the woman ''in fact suffered no real injury''.
The defendant's lawyers argued that the woman had "feigned injury from the outset" or otherwise ''deliberately sought to intentionally overstate her injury with a view to jumping on the Comcare gravy train''.
They argued there were ''tell-tale signs'' that proved she was overstating the injury. The woman, the defendant argued, had tried to tell doctors that the accident ''was far more significant than in reality it was", and only made half-hearted attempts to return to work.
A video taken three years after the accident, also captured the apparently injured woman helping another driver push his car off the road, after his car broke down.
But ACT Supreme Court Master David Mossop found that the accident had caused a ''whiplash associated disorder'' that led to neck pain, some back pain, headaches, and eventually significant depression.
''I am satisfied that her complaints of pain were genuine,'' he wrote.
''Her doctors prescribed her with drugs to manage that pain which, although assisting her to manage the pain, led to her being less able to maintain a level of activity and engagement necessary to be able to return to work.
''I accept that the cognitive effects of those drugs and the inactivity and disengagement caused by both the plaintiff's experience of pain and the effects of the drugs led to a worsening of her psychological state.''
He awarded her $391,682 in damages.