A grim future priced at $5.7m

By Julie Butler







"I WASN'T scared but I knew something was up big-time."

That is the way Brian Jones, 33, describes his thoughts as the car he was in aqua-planed then rolled 13 times after striking water on Reid Highway in Mirrabooka in July 2000.

He is now a tetraplegic, able to move his arms a bit but not his hands or legs, and has been awarded one of the biggest car accident payouts in WA - $5.7 million.

The former deckhand said yesterday about $3.5 million was for his future round-the- clock care, including help to drink, take medication and change urine bags.

The payout would also cover voice-activated equipment, ramps and non-slip tiling for a new house, future operations, and help him achieve more independence.

Mr Jones was on his 13th day of freedom after five years jail for armed robbery when he was given a lift by a friend in a new Holden GTS.

He says they were doing about 105kmh in a 110kmh zone when they drove through the puddle that led to the shredding of his spinal cord.

He spent about a year in hospital and now lives with his parents and fiancee Claire Underwood, 27. He is back in hospital this week for another operation.

The ability to make small movements with a wrist gives him control of a motorised wheelchair but Mr Jones is adamant he will walk again. He was upbeat yesterday, but isn't always, though hope has been less of a stranger since he met Miss Underwood about a year ago.

An Insurance Commission of WA spokeswoman said Mr Jones had already received some payments, and the $5.3 million agreed to last week brought the total to $5.7 million.

The commission's highest third party payout was $10.77 million, in September 2000. Settlements above $5 million were rare and usually reflected the future care cost for people with head injury or quadriplegia, she said.

Mr Jones' lawyer, Donna Percy, said the commission had taken a realistic view of the cost for Mr Jones to live independently.

But often insurers dug in over the price of providing severely injured people with some quality of life, sometimes arguing they should be put to bed about 7pm and left alone overnight.

Mr Jones said his friend had not been speeding but he now saw many motorists who were and urged them: "Don't take life for granted."

"Mine has changed 180 degrees. Now I'd give anything just to have one hand work," he said. "I hate it when people say, 'Things happen for a reason'. What could be the reason for going through this?"
























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