Cyclist hurt in Bukit Batok accident awarded record $13.6m payout

Mr Christian Joachim Pollmann was cycling along Brickland Road in Bukit Batok when Ye Xianrong’s car crashed into him.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - A Swiss national, who suffered traumatic brain injuries after a car crashed into his bicycle, was awarded over $13.6 million in damages by the High Court.

It is believed to be a record sum for personal injury claims.

Mr Christian Joachim Pollmann, 45, who was the executive director of Swiss bank Julius Baer, was so seriously injured that his speech is now severely impaired, he has to depend on a live-in caregiver, and will probably never work again.

On Nov 19, 2014, at 8pm, Mr Pollmann, who is married and the father of two children, was cycling along Brickland Road in Bukit Batok when Ye Xianrong's car crashed into him from behind.

According to a High Court judgment issued in October 2017, Ye, 36, was checking his blind spot for traffic before filtering into another lane. Failing to keep a lookout ahead, he got too close to the cyclist. He jammed his brakes when he realised they were about to collide, but it was too late.

Mr Pollmann was thrown off his bicycle and sustained serious head injuries, spending six months in hospital.

In 2016, Ye pleaded guilty to causing grievous hurt to Mr Pollmann by a negligent act that endangers human life. He was fined $5,000 and banned from driving for three years.

A year later, the High Court found Ye to be fully liable for Mr Pollmann's injuries in a negligence suit. Of the damages Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy awarded to Mr Pollmann last Monday, the loss of future income - amounting to more than $9.3 million - was the biggest slice of the pie.

Mr Pollmann's neurosurgeon told the judge that due to his disabilities, he cannot handle more than one task or person at a time, and even doing manual work is difficult because he cannot remember the full set of instructions.

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Justice Vinodh believed Mr Pollmann, who is living in Singapore, would have been promoted to managing director senior adviser last year had the accident not happened.

Justice Vinodh estimated that Mr Pollmann, taking an average bonus of 35 per cent a year, would have earned around $658,000 annually for the next 14 years.

Other damages awarded to Mr Pollmann included future recurring medical expenses of around $1.09 million and loss of pre-trial earnings of about $1.54 million.

Mr Pollmann needs botox treatment twice a year to treat a nerve injury on his face, which causes his right eye to close involuntarily when he smiles or bites. He will also undergo three facial reconstruction operations - a tissue transfer, fat grafting and face tightening - to correct facial asymmetry.

He has a live-in caregiver to assist him with day-to-day tasks due to his cognitive damage.

Justice Vinodh did not let Mr Pollmann recover the cost of speech therapy as he found it would likely be ineffective given the severity of his speech impairment.

In the first four years after the accident, Mr Pollmann's wife, 44, quit her job paying $9,600 a month to care for him. Their children are aged eight and 10.

She returned to work in 2018 with a reduced salary.

The judge allowed for the recovery of his wife's pre-trial loss of earnings, capped at $1,000 a month, given the combined pressure on the household of dealing with the plaintiff's injuries and with young children.

The damages will be borne by Ye's insurers. They have made interim payments to Mr Pollmann totalling $3.1 million so far.

Lawyers on both sides told The Sunday Times they have no comments at this stage as they are studying the judgment.


Mr Pollmann's injuries

• Serious brain injuries causing cognitive damage

• Severe speech impairment

• Seizures

• Facial nerve damage causing abnormal movements

• Severe facial injuries that require reconstructive surgery

• Major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder

• Tinnitus (ringing in one or both ears)

• Shoulder injuries


Breakdown of award

Loss of future income

$9,325,541

Pre-trial loss of earnings

$1,543,968

Recurring future medical expenses including botox and psychotherapy

$1,094,212

One-off future medical expenses including plastic surgery procedures and physiotherapy sessions

$694,422

Special damages including medical expenses incurred in Switzerland and professional nursing costs

$643,040.05

Pain and suffering

$300,000

Mrs Pollmann's pre-trial loss of earnings

$59,000

Total: $13,660,183.05

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.