Accident victim gets damages to pay for overseas studies

Accident victim gets damages to pay for overseas studies

SINGAPORE - The High Court has, in an uncommon case, found a road accident victim was justified to seek damages to pay for his studies abroad.

It accepted that the victim, Mr Wesley Tan, 26, had enrolled at well-ranked Purdue University in the United States as he reasonably assumed his grades would not qualify him for admission at the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Techological University or Singapore Management University.

Mr Tan was a trainee pilot with the the Republic of Singapore Air Force when a lorry collided into his motorcycle on the Kranji Expressway in August 2009.

He was treated at the National University Hospital but his pilot's career ended two months later owing to the risk of post-traumatic epilepsy arising from a head injury. Insurers for the lorry driver accepted 100 per cent liability for the accident.

Mr Tan, represented by lawyer Lim Kim Hong, had sought about $3.9 million in damages for loss of future earnings, medical expenses and the cost of an overseas education, among other things.

Assistant Registrar James Elisha Lee, in judgment grounds released on Monday, pared down the total award to $963,198. He awarded part of the funds sought by Mr Tan to study management at Purdue so he could work in the human resource field on graduation. Lawyer Simon Goh had argued for the defendant that Mr Tan could have studied locally at a lower cost, which included options like the Singapore Institute of Management or RMIT.

But Mr Lee found those options would not command a starting salary much more than what he would get with the specialist diploma he already held at the time of the accident.

The registrar said it was therefore "not unreasonable" for Mr Tan not to have taken up the option even if he had considered it at that time.

He added Mr Tan was justified in pursuing studies to "mitigate his loss" of the monies he would have earned as an airline pilot and awarded $249,241 for his studies. "The pilot career is a highly specialised and exclusive career given the nature of the job and the highly selective process in the training of a pilot," said Mr Lee.

But Mr Tan's claim of a maximum of $3,339,120 for loss of future earnings was scaled downwards to $497,796, taking into account the difference between what he would have earned in either field, and based on working till age 62, with an appropriate discount factored.

He also claimed loss of earnings from the time of his accident till the trial, which the court assessed at $174,161. An additional $42,000 was awarded for pain and suffering.

Mr Tan, who began his studies at Purdue in 2010, is due to graduate next year.

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