Lim Kok Leong v Yong Wai Lai

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeToh Yung Cheong
Judgment Date18 February 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] SGDC 32
Citation[2022] SGDC 32
Hearing Date17 December 2021,10 January 2022
Docket NumberDistrict Court Suit No 2380 of 2015, District Court Registrar’s Appeal No.63 of 2021, HC/RAS 1/2022
Published date04 March 2022
Plaintiff CounselMs Lee Yuk Lan (M/s Benedict Chan & Company)
Defendant CounselMr Willy Tay Boon Chong (Willy Tay's Chambers)
Subject MatterDamages,Assessment
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong: Introduction

The plaintiff (“P”) was injured in a motor accident on 27 December 2010. On 3 April 2013, he was involved in another motor accident and also suffered injuries. In both cases, the car he was driving was rear-ended while momentarily stationary. He filed claims in respect of both accidents (referred to as “RTA1” and “RTA2” respectively) for the injuries and losses he suffered.

The suit in respect of RTA2 was settled while the suit in respect of RTA1 proceeded to an assessment of damages hearing where the Deputy Registrar awarded the plaintiff the following damages:

S/no Description DR’s award
1 General Damages for pain and suffering $24,000
2 Medical/Transport-related losses $30,156.17
3 Income-related losses $93,799.75
Total $147,955.92

The plaintiff appealed against the DR’s decision.

Application to amend Statement of Claim in respect of pre-trial medical expenses

The DR in his Grounds of Decision noted that the plaintiff, in his statement of special damages annexed to the statement of claim, claimed $24,007.30 in pre-writ medical expenses. However, P enlarged this claim to $30,913.44 in his closing submissions. The DR explained in his GD that he would have been prepared to allow a claim for a sum of at least $30,631.24. However, the DR limited the award to $24,007.30 since special damages must be strictly pleaded.1 Before the hearing of the Registrar’s Appeal, the plaintiff applied to amend the statement of special damages annexed to his claim. I allowed the application after a separate hearing.

Registrar’s Appeal

I allowed the plaintiff’s appeal in relation to pre-trial medical expenses in light of my decision to allow the plaintiff to amend the statement of claim.

Apart from this, the plaintiff’s appeal was dismissed. The plaintiff has appealed against my decision and I will now set out the reasons for my decision.

Plaintiff’s Appeal

I will deal with the plaintiff’s appeal in the following order: Part I: General Damages for pain and suffering: Grade 3 whiplash with associated spinal injuries. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood; insomnia. Part II: Medical/ Transport-related losses: Pre-trial medical/transport claims. Future Medical Expenses. Part III: Income-related losses Pre-AD loss of earnings. Loss of future earnings / loss of earnings capacity.

Part I: General Damages for pain and suffering Grade 3 Whiplash injury and associated spinal injuries

P’s Submission D’s Submission DR’s award
$25,000 $8,000 $18,000

The DR awarded $18,000 for a Grade 3 whiplash injury and associated spinal injuries. In making the award, the DR took the position that half of P’s symptoms post-RTA2 were attributable to RTA2. Therefore, the award was compensation only for the pain and suffering from whiplash that was attributable to RTA1.2

The plaintiff’s position is that RTA2 had little impact on P’s injury in RTA1 whereas the defendant submitted that the damages should be reduced.

I agreed with the DR’s approach and noted that he had carefully scrutinised the medical evidence before coming to his decision. In particular, the DR took note of P’s hospitalisation, the amount of medical leave granted, the dosage and cost of his medication, and P’s claim that he was not able to drive a taxi after RTA2. This can be contrasted to P’s condition immediately before RTA2, where P had recovered sufficiently to be able to drive a taxi.

While the medical experts could not quantitatively apportion the effects of RTA1 and RTA2, there was nevertheless sufficient evidence for the DR to find that RTA2 was a serious accident.

Given the evidence of the substantial impact of RTA2, the DR’s decision to consider half of the plaintiff’s post-RTA2 symptoms as attributable to RTA1 was extremely fair to the plaintiff.

Moving from a consideration of the DR’s approach to the quantum of the award, I am of the view that DR’s award correctly reflects the seriousness of the injury. Despite there being some medical evidence that P suffered from Grade 3 whiplash, the DR did not simply rely on the diagnostic label and went further to take into account the relatively more serious symptoms suffered by P. I also noted that the $18,000 award was within the range in the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases (Academy Publishing 2010) for Grade 4 whiplash and severe whiplash injuries. Therefore, I dismissed P’s appeal against this award.

Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood; Insomnia

P’s Submission D’s Submission DR’s award
$12,000 - $6,000
P’s submission on Appeal

P is appealing against the DR’s award of $6,000 in damages for insomnia and adjustment disorder with depressed mood. P submitted on appeal that the DR erred in finding that while RTA1 contributed to P’s adjustment disorder, D should only be liable to half of P’s post-RTA2 pain and suffering.3

P submitted that this finding was not justified as P’s complaints and symptoms existed before RTA2 and did not worsen after RTA2.4


The basis for submitting that P’s condition had not worsened was that the “Plaintiff’s complaints regarding his psychological condition were largely similar before and after the 2nd accident.” However, the fact that the complaints were similar in nature is not sufficient to establish that the symptoms did not get more severe after RTA2.

I agreed with the DR that the evidence showed that P’s condition worsened after RTA2 and D should only be liable to half of P’s post-RTA2 pain and suffering. In arriving at this finding, I noted that: P’s diagnosis for adjustment disorder with depressed mood was only made 8.5 months after RTA2 which suggests that his condition may have worsened after RTA2 to the extent that it fit the diagnostic criteria for the condition. After P started working as a taxi driver in 2012, P defaulted on his appointments of psychiatry and psychology without good reason. This suggests that since he had a relatively stable source of income as a taxi driver, the symptoms he had reported had lessened to the extent that he did not see a need to seek medical help for them.

Part II: Medical and Transport Expenses Pre-trial Medical Expenses

P’s Submission D’s Submission DR’s award Award on Appeal
$59,739.54 $14,450.29 $27,139.54 ($24,007.30+ $3,132.24) $33,763.48 ($30,631.24+ $3,132.24)

As I had allowed P’s application to amend the Statement of Special Damages, I am awarding P $30,631.24 for medical expenses for the period 27 Dec 2010 to 27 Sep 2012.

For the reasons stated earlier concerning the seriousness of RTA2 and its impact on the plaintiff, I agreed with the DR’s approach to award P half of the post-RTA2 medical expenses used to treat P’s injuries that are not clearly attributable to RTA2.5

Future Medical Expenses

P’s Submission D’s Submission DR’s award
$56,304 $1,000 $2,484.13

I dismissed P’s appeal against the DR’s award of $2,484.13 for future medical expenses.

P’s submission

The plaintiff’s claim of $56,304 for future medical expenses was based on $276.00/month x 12 months/year x 17 (being the multiplier considering P’s 36-year remaining life expectancy). At the hearing of the appeal, the plaintiff put forward an alternative sum of $8,721 ($513 x...

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