We were approached by our Client to investigate a Motor Vehicle Accident resulting in Catastrophic Injury. We were advised that that there was limited information to go on and the accident had occurred in a very remote corner of South Australia (north of Coober Pedy).
The crash which had occurred 12 months earlier, involved a single vehicle where the driver had suffered catastrophic injuries resulting in quadriplegia. The reported circumstances were that the driver had been cut off by a passing truck, forcing them off the road, which resulted in the vehicle rolling. There was also anecdotal information that the driver had swerved to avoid a kangaroo.
The investigation was vital because under the South Australian Compulsory Third Party Insurance Scheme at that time, there was no claim if the driver was the author of their own demise. Another driver had to be found liable for the crash.
As the Major Crash unit of the State Law Enforcement Agency did not attend the scene, there was limited information regarding the actual accident site and key witnesses although named, were only recorded with a single telephone number each.
Our first step was to travel to Coober Pedy to interview the attending local Law Enforcement Officers. Crucially, the attending police admitted that the driver (who they found in situ in the vehicle), did not have their seatbelt on (contrary to the official report).
They also advised that they could not assist us in establishing the exact site, as the location was not marked and no one had recorded the location’s GPS coordinates. All we had to go on was that it was 100km north of the remote township and on the western side of the Highway.
The site had to be located, so we painstakingly scoured the area at approximately 100km north of Coober Pedy. This location consists flat, featureless gibber desert. After surveying the area for some time, we stumbled across some very faint markings leading off the road to some loose piles of shattered glass. Here, we found various items, including car parts, a post box key and some personal belongings. Each item was carefully removed and tagged.
These articles were then examined carefully back at base and from them we were able to determine that we had found a crash site involving a vehicle of the exact make and model as the subject vehicle. We were further able to confirm this as the correct crash site when information was received that the post office box key belonged to the husband of the driver.
Next, the available documentation regarding the incident was scrutinised and all available witnesses were identified, located and contacted.
The first on scene witnesses (who happened to be the ones we wanted to speak to the most), turned out to be a young couple from Switzerland, after we tracked them with only a first name and a prepaid cell phone. Unfortunately, we soon learned they had long since left the country. Despite this, we pursue them for statements and it was eventually agreed that we should meet with these witnesses in Switzerland and obtain their statements.
We subsequently met with these witnesses in Geneva and obtained statements detailing what they saw and what conversations were had with the occupants of the subject vehicle when they first arrived at the scene of the crash.
Other witnesses (all from various parts of Australia), were eventually tracked down and their statements obtained as well.
We found that many of the witness statements contradicted key claims made by the Plaintiff and the occupants of the vehicle, including confirmation Plaintiff was not wearing her restraints (as required by law).
At about this time, we located other photographs taken at the scene. Reconstruction engineers were then engaged accompanied us to the crash site. Using the marks at the scene in conjunction with the photographic evidence, we were able to determine the most likely scenario.
The matter later went to Trial in New South Wales, and due to the evidence obtained in our investigation, our client was not found liable in this case.