Former cop's $1.1M payout after haunting crash trauma
A FORMER police officer has been awarded more than $1million due to the psychiatric injuries he suffered after attending a horrific fatal crash on the Sunshine Coast.
David Paul Caffrey was called to the crash in February 2013, where he desperately tried to save a man who had his "legs chopped off" and was crushed after his car collided with a tree.
Documents filed in the Supreme Court of Brisbane alleged he developed post traumatic stress disorder in the months after he witnessed the man die, saying the memories haunted him.
Mr Caffery filed the claim for $1.09million against insurance company AAI Limited in October 2018.
On February 14, 2013, Mr Caffrey was called to the crash at the intersection of Beerburrum-Woodford Rd and Glasshouse-Woodford Rd.
The driver, Byron Neil Williams, crashed into a tree about 7pm and was in critical condition when Mr Caffrey arrived.
Mr Caffrey climbed up the vehicle, cleared his airways and supported his head, which was oozing "matter" while he gasped for air and waited for paramedics.
Mr Williams' parents arrived at the shocking scene and "after what felt like a lifetime" fire service and paramedics arrived.
Despite efforts to save him, paramedics told Mr Caffrey that Mr Williams was "going to die". He informed his parents, took their hands and said "let's go say goodbye". Mr Williams died soon after.
Mr Caffery said despite 20 years as an officer, watching someone's child die in front of him was too close to home.
"You see (your children) coming into the world; you never imagine burying them, do you?," he said in the hearing.
"But (it) took me about two years to remove my son's face from that. Sorry if that's not relevant but... his face was superimposed on the lad's - on the lad's face. I just kept seeing me son."
Mr Caffrey began his service at Queensland Police Service in 2004 after he migrated from the United Kingdom with his family.
He was stationed at Caloundra, Kawana and was on duty at Beerwah when the incident happened.
In the weeks following the incident, Mr Caffrey started drinking a lot. He became angry and over-reacted at situations, even coming close to suicide and pushing to go back to work to have access to firearms.
He was advised by consultant psychiatrist Dr Dhushan Illesinghe to take one-month off work in March 2013, who said Mr Caffrey was consumed by memories of the incident.
He was officially diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in July 2013.
Mr Caffrey was also subject to an off-duty incident where he witnessed multiple child fatalities at a crash in 2014 which allegedly added to his health issues.
Mr Caffrey was rendered "permanently unfit" to perform duties as a front-line police officer and was advised to retire in June 2014. When he declined this request, Queensland Police Service dismissed him on medical incapacity on July 2014.
He claimed the lack of caution on the roads taken by Mr Williams was a contributing factor to his mental state.
The court heard the crash occurred after "negligent" driving including "failure to drive the vehicle at an appropriate speed and to maintain proper control of the vehicle". Alcohol, methamphetapmines and marijuana also presented Mr Williams' system.
The defendant argued there was no authority that established that a police officer summoned to attend at the scene of an accident which has already occurred was owed a duty of care. They also argued Mr Williams did not foresee the risks.
Judge Flanigan found the evidence provided showed Mr Caffrey had pre-existing vulnerability to PTSD as a police officer and the first accident made him chronically unfit to continue his work.
He was granted $70,000 for general damages, $318,262 for past economic loss, $469,490 for future economic loss and other damages totalling about $1.09million.