An Australian widow whose cyclist husband died here after being hit by a taxi received about $4.3 million last month – believed to be the largest reported payout for an accident dependency claim here.
The High Court-approved payout, which was mutually agreed by the parties involved, capped a settlement reached some four years after the tragedy and a year after insurers for the taxi driver accepted 100 per cent liability.
In a previously reported dependency claim case in 2016 involving fatal personal injury, the affected family was awarded $2.6 million.
Mr Benjamin Paul Lawrance, 32, died on the spot from multiple injuries when a taxi from the opposite direction crashed into him as he was cycling along Mandai Road just after 5.30am on July 14, 2014.
Mr Lawrance, an expatriate working here as a regional manager of an offshore drilling firm, was cycling with others, who witnessed the tragedy. It emerged that cabby Mohammad Adzhar Ahmad had momentarily fallen asleep when his taxi cut to the right, to the other side of a continuous white dividing line on Mandai Road, near Nee Soon Flyover, and hit Mr Lawrance.
Adzhar, 39, was convicted in August 2015 in a district court, jailed for three months and banned from driving for seven years after admitting to causing death by a rash act.
Last year, the victim’s widow, Mrs Sionnan Lawrance, 36, sued the driver in the High Court for negligence and sought damages for herself and their three-year-old son.
In claim documents filed, she sought compensation as both the housewife and their son had been dependent on Mr Lawrance for support and maintenance. The regional manager was being paid an expatriate’s package.
As they were dependent on him for support, his death meant they lost their means of support and at issue was the projected sum he could have earned over a lifetime to provide for them, given his promising career and future earnings abroad.
Lawyer Grace Malathy, representing the widow, engaged a forensic accountant from Matson, Driscoll & Damico to quantify the dependency claims, whose expert report was meant for scrutiny at court assessment hearings fixed for March.
Among other things, draft affidavits were also prepared and sent to the two accident witnesses – Mr Peter Galloway, who in 2016 was in Antarctica carrying out oil exploration work, and Mr Daniel O’ Connel, who was in New Zealand.
It so happened that the station leader of the oil rig was an approved notary public and was sourced to attest Mr Galloway’s affidavit. A notary public is an authorised person who can witness and certify legal documents used in legal cases abroad. Finding one in Antarctica would have otherwise been difficult.
In the end, the court hearings were vacated as the quantum was settled through private negotiations between lawyers from Tan Kok Quan Partnership for the taxi driver’s insurers and Grace Law LLC for the widow. The sum comprised $2.1 million in loss of dependency for the widow and $1.05 million in loss of dependency for the child, and another $1.185 million in special damages, among other things.
The settlement sum was approved by the High Court as a requirement since a child was involved as a party in the suit.
“This was a protracted case involving much legwork for a grieving widow,” said Ms Malathy. “Mrs Lawrance was unaware then of the prospect of a dependency claim and had thought compensation was for bereavement.