Eight Polish people in two cars that collided on an approach to a roundabout at Lusk, Co Dublin, lodged personal injury claims totalling almost €0.5m, Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke was told Monday.
When dealing with three of them in the Circuit Civil Court today Judge Groarke awarded three claimants €10,000 each and told Axa Insurance that while he did not blame the company for adopting a very defensive attitude to the cases, he was compelled, because of the honesty of witnesses, to find in their favour.
Referring to evidence by an Axa investigator, who told the court he had discovered Facebook links between some of the claimants and people in the other car involved, Judge Groarke said the court was aware that some people who are “friends” on Facebook often do not know one another from Adam.
Arkadiusz Rokicki (23); Daniel Kutszal (24) and his sister, Majal Kutszal (34), all with addresses in the village of Lusk, were injured on December 27 when they were passengers in a car driven by the defendant Dariusz Chudyk, also from Lusk, who was indemnified through his insurance policy with Axa and is now living in Poland. He did not appear in court when called to answer the claims.
Barrister Paul Gallagher, counsel for the three claimants, told the court they were injured when Mr Chudyk’s car drove into the back of a car he was driving behind near a roundabout in Lusk. Each of the plaintiffs had sustained whiplash injuries when “jolted” in the collision.
Mr Gallagher, who appeared with Robert Anderson of Anderson and Gallagher Solicitors, said each of his clients had complained of having suffered pain and stiffness to the neck and in their lower back. They had been medicated with painkillers.
Judge Groarke said that a number of issues had been raised by Mr Frank Martin, counsel for Axa, to test the credibility of the three plaintiffs who had been put through a very thorough cross-examination. The first plaintiff, Mr Rokicki, had not been an impressive witness and not very convincing.
“But the other two witnesses, particularly the last one to give evidence, were extremely impressive witnesses,” Judge Groarke said. He said Ms Kutszal, who gave her evidence through an interpreter, was entirely honest in everything she had said to the court. During cross-examination she had made no attempt at prevarication or avoidance.
“Once I believe her account, which I do, I must find in favour of the account generally given by the others and that gets them over the line,” Judge Groarke told Mr Gallagher.
He said it was entirely natural that three Polish people would go to a native doctor and with regard to the Facebook links outlined to the court he was aware that people were “friends” on Facebook who don’t know one another from Adam.
Judge Groarke said there had been no evidence of any Facebook communication between any of the plaintiffs and anybody else involved in the accident.
“There is nothing in that evidence to compel me to accept that these people do know one another or that there is any association between them,” he said. “I don’t blame the insurance company for adopting a very defensive attitude to this case which had the hallmarks of something that warrants that degree of investigation. Every case of this nature warrants a degree of investigation.”
Judge Groarke said he was satisfied the accident was a genuine one and that there was no question left in his mind other than that it was a genuine accident and the claimants were equally genuine.
With regard to the extent of their injuries he said he would award each claimant damages of €10,000 with District Court costs. Mr Martin applied for and was granted a stay on the courts orders.
The five outstanding claims arising from the accident relating to the driver and passengers in the third party car have not yet come before the court. Each claimant was and is seeking damages of €60,000 amounting to an overall claim value of €480,000.
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