Former policeman David Caffrey suffered severe post traumatic stress after attending this car accident on the Sunshine Coast.
Former policeman David Caffrey suffered severe post traumatic stress after attending this car accident on the Sunshine Coast.

Insurer appeals $1m pay out order for traumatised cop

AN insurer that was ordered to pay more than a million dollars to an ex-policeman who suffered post traumatic stress from seeing a driver die at an accident scene wants the decision set aside.

A judge found the driver owed a duty of care not to cause psychiatric injury to Senior Constable David Caffrey, who was required to respond to an accident caused by his negligent driving.

On January 30, Justice Flanagan ordered the insurer, AAI Limited, to pay former Beerburrum officer, Mr Caffrey, $1,092,947.

AAI Limited this week filed a notice of appeal, asking for Justice Flanagan's orders to be set aside and Mr Caffrey's claim against it dismissed.

The insurer claims the judge erred in finding a person who caused horrific and distressing injuries had a duty not to cause psychiatric harm to someone required to attend events where there would be such injuries.

"As a matter of public policy, the learned trial judge should have held that such a duty of care could not arise in favour of a person in such occupation for pure psychiatric harm caused in the course of that occupation,'' the appeal said.

After the decision, Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said it had the potential to open the floodgates to claims by first responders suffering psychiatric injury.

Sen Const. Caffrey arrived at the Sunshine Coast accident scene on February 17, 2013, to see a car wrapped around a tree and the drug-affected driver trapped inside.

"I'd never seen anybody die before my eyes,'' Mr Caffrey, who left the Queensland Police Service in 2014, told the Supreme Court.

He had encouraged the driver, saying: "Come on, mate'' and "Don't give up'', tried to reassure the driver's parents that he would survive and was with them when their son died.

Mr Caffrey was later diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder.

It was argued the driver had a duty to take reasonable care not to cause psychiatric injury to an officer attending an accident caused by his driving, who may have to witness suffering or death.

The insurer, AAI Limited, denied the driver owed such a duty of care, arguing that the public would expect police sent to an accident scene to be equipped to avoid psychiatric harm.

But Justice Peter Flanagan said even trained police were human and not entirely immune to psychiatric injury.