A man who suffered severe brain injuries in a car accident has been awarded a record $20 million in damages and compensation.
- Chrys Barker suffered severe brain injuries in a car accident in 2014
- Insurer RACQ proposed Chrys move into an aged care home for the rest of his life
- Chrys’s parents wanted to care for him at home and agreed to a $20 million settlement
It is believed to be the biggest single personal injury settlement in Queensland.
Chrys Barker was 28 when he was critically injured in a car accident in January 2014, and has since been confined to a wheelchair and in need of 24-hour care.
“We can really sigh with relief,” Mr Barker’s mother Betty Barker told 7.30.
“To know that the funds are there now for Chrys to be looked after for the rest of his life … it’s just a relief.”
The motor vehicle accident, which claimed the life of Mr Barker’s 20-year-old cousin Bobby Hobbs, was caused by a repeat drunk driver, and third party personal injury insurer RACQ accepted full liability.
However, the insurer initially proposed Mr Barker be moved into an aged care facility for the rest of his life, at an estimated cost of $3 million.
Mr Barker’s parents were determined to bring him home.
“We in our hearts believed there was nothing there [at an aged care home) for Chrys,” father Allan Barker said.
“We had to give him another option, give him something to fight for and we could fight to get that dream for Chrys.”
‘We’ve really seen a change in Chrys since he’s been home’
The Barkers presented the RACQ with medical opinions that Chrys would be better cared for at his parents’ home, and in early 2015 the insurer agreed to pay for the arrangement.
The family home at Donnybrook, north of Brisbane, has since been transformed.
“The house was never prepared for a disabled person … simple things like wiring a power board for a generator in case you lose power,” Mr Barker said.
“Every doorway had to be widened for a wheelchair. Chrys is a big strong boy, he’s in a good-sized wheelchair, and most average doorways are too small for Chrys.”
The RACQ and the Barkers had to wait another four years for Chrys’s health to stabilise before they could finally agree on the $20.5 million settlement.
“It has really set the boundaries for future settlements of this size, and a lot of that is based on Chrys’s age and the severity of his injuries,” RACQ’s head of communications Paul Turner told 7.30.
“This was a really complex case medically and we had to ensure … that Chrys was covered for life and we got the best cover possible.”
That settlement was sanctioned by the Queensland Supreme Court earlier this year and the funds were paid into a trust account last month.
“The settlement sum goes to an independent trustee company who invests the sum and they manage in the long term, ensuring that Chrys will be looked after,” Jamie Shine, from Shine Lawyers, said.
“They will pay for his rehabilitation costs, any modifications costs, his carers’ costs, aids and equipment, the increased insurance, increased electricity bills that have arisen now because of this injury.
“The best thing, though, is that we really have seen a change in Chrys since he has been home.”
‘You want to make them safe and protect them’
Chrys cannot speak but his father said his son communicated through eye movements.
“He’s still got his beautiful eyes,” the former coal miner said.
“Chrys understands all conversations, but just can’t give it back, and we can work on that.
“As time goes on we’re getting little bits and pieces here and there.
“To the average person it may not be a big milestone, but for Chrys he’s starting to learn how to write now.”
Ms Barker added: “Every day is something new.
“We’ve had relapses. When he’s unwell you think are we going to lose the ability to swallow, or are we going to lose the ability for him to communicate with his eyes?
“But it always comes back.”
Allan Barker said:
“When your kids are born, you want to make them safe and protect them. The last five years we haven’t been able to protect him very well.
“Now that the case is settled, we can help Chrys plan his life better.
“That’s all we ever wanted, for Chrys to be safe.”