Court rules against CTP insurer RACQ, $3.3m payout for man left paralysed after North Stradbroke Island crash

SCENE: A photo from the scene of the 2013 crash. Photo: RACQ Careflight Rescue
SCENE: A photo from the scene of the 2013 crash. Photo: RACQ Careflight Rescue

THE High Court has ruled against CTP insurer RACQ, awarding $3.35 million to a Mackenzie family whose son was injured in a head-on collision on North Stradbroke Island in 2013.

Mason Lee, who was 17 at the time, was left with a collapsed lung and spinal injuries resulting in tetraplegia after the crash.

His family, who are from Taiwan, were holidaying on the island when they crashed into an oncoming car.

Now 23, Mr Lee needs a wheelchair, walker and crutches.

A Slater and Gordon spokeswoman said that a 2017 Queensland Supreme Court decision found that Mr Lee was driving the car based on DNA evidence provided by police, showing his blood was found on the driver's airbag.

After losing an appeal to the Queensland Court of Appeal, Slater and Gordon was granted special leave to appeal in the High Court.

The spokeswoman said the High Court had ruled on Thursday that Mr Lee was in the back seat with his two younger brothers at the time of the crash, while his father was driving.

Mr Lee was awarded $3,350,000 in damages to cover his rehabilitation expenses, loss of wages and future expenses. RACQ was also ordered to pay Mr Lee's legal costs.

The spokeswoman said the court had found the teenager's blood had been transferred onto the airbag after his father touched Mr Lee's bleeding face.

"As Mason's mother was trapped in the front passenger seat, his father had to climb through the driver's side to check on her, causing his hands to brush past the airbag," the spokeswoman said.

Mr Lee said that he was asleep during the car ride. "When I woke up I was lying on the ground," he said. "I couldn't lift my arms and legs.

"People were telling me not to move my neck. I think I passed out from the pain and woke up in hospital. I could only move my toes at first and it has taken years of physio in hospitals and hydrotherapy before I could walk on crutches to maintain the level of movement I have."

Slater and Gordon lawyer Nicola Thompson said Mr Lee and his family who had been caring for him since the accident, were relieved the claim was successful.

"Mason will now be able to receive the assistance and equipment he needs for the rest of his life, including a wheel chair, walking aids, rehabilitation and home modifications," Ms Thompson said.

"The High Court found that Mason was the passenger and was not at fault in the accident. The insurer had initially denied liability so there was no compensation available to the family."

Ms Thompson said if the appeal had not been successful, the family faced fraud charges through the Motor Accident Insurance Commission.

An RACQ spokesman said the insurer was glad the case had come to an end and everyone could move forward. "This has been a tragic and drawn out case which has impacted the family and all involved," he said.