Unhurt car crash victim wins pounds 1m

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A SECOND-HAND car salesman who was awarded pounds 30,000 in damages after a car crash had the amount increased to more than pounds 1m by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

In a ruling described by Lord Justice Brooke as "rare", the damages were increased 30-fold because the judge at an earlier hearing failed to take account of "very sophisticated psychiatric evidence" before ruling on the damages.

Raymond Arrowsmith, 49, a successful second-hand car salesman, suffered no serious physical injuries when his car was overturned and crushed by another vehicle in 1990, but his personality was severely impaired.

Previously, the married father of three children was a happy "workaholic" with an outgoing personality, but after the accident he lost interest in his work, his sex drive vanished and he moved to a French village in order not to have to speak to anyone. Eventually, four years after the accident, his marriage broke down.

The accident happened on the A127, as Mr Arrowsmith drove towards Southend, Essex, when a Volvo attempting to join the dual carriageway skidded, hit a barrier, bounced across the road and hit Mr Arrowsmith's car.

Lord Justice Brooke said Mr Arrowsmith's car turned over and skidded on its roof for 80 yards. "The slide up the road seemed to go on forever, and he then found himself trapped by his seat belt, with the roof of the car collapsed on to the dashboard and surrounded by a very strong smell of petrol," said the judge.

"He had seen racing cars explode in his time, and he was convinced he was going to burn to death. He started kicking and punching at the door for what seemed to him like hours and he eventually managed to ease himself out on to the road."

Mr Arrowsmith, cut and bleeding, was flown to hospital by helicopter where he was found to be more affected by the psychological affects of the accident than any physical problems.

He was diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and one doctor had described him as "sad and troubled, unable to cope with stress, introverted and prone to tearfulness". Friends said his character had changed and he was now "depressed and grumpy".

Lord Justice Brooke said that Mr Arrowsmith set up his first business in 1976 after working for 10 years with car dealers. Eventually he set up his own business at the Rayleigh Weir Roundabout, near Rayleigh, Essex. The judge said witnesses described Mr Arrowsmith during this period as a workaholic with a phenomenal memory who could make quick, instantaneous decisions.

He worked long hours, seven days a week, and even before the accident his medical history "illustrated the all too frequent downside for a highly motivated successful man, namely an anxious personality and subject to stress".

In 1988, his last full year's trading, his business turned over pounds 912,000, making a net profit of more than pounds 236,000. Although he went back to work in a neck brace seven months after the accident, he stopped trading in April 1991 and has not worked since.

Last year, Deputy High Court Judge Simpson awarded Mr Arrowsmith a total of pounds 30,565 in damages and interest, finding that the effects of his injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder lasted for only a year after the accident.

Lord Justice Brooke said that he had sympathy with Judge Simpson's decision but more weight should have been given to complex psychiatric evidence. Lord Justice Brooke, whose findings were endorsed by Lord Justice Morritt and Lord Justice Hirst, said: "In my judgement the evidence from all sources, lay and medical, was overwhelmingly to the effect that the plaintiff was suffering from a continuing, moderately severe, depressive disorder."

The judge in the High Court should have reached the same conclusion, he said. The full damages, to be paid by the other driver's insurance company, are pounds 1,020,725.