Richard Doodson can recall fearing his life would be cut short while trapped inside his car after an oncoming vehicle collided with his, on a narrow mountainside Sunshine Coast road.
The Pelican Waters grandfather considers himself lucky to have walked away with his life after the Peachester Road crash in 2018, despite the life-changing injuries which have since prevented him from working as a prison officer for another 10 years as planned.
“It was a real shock. I watched him coming around the bend and I’m saying ‘move over’ and I thought ‘this is going to hurt’ and then bang. I tried to steer away but I had nowhere to go. He sent me into the embankment. When I came to, I could see smoke inside the cabin of my car. I thought the car might be on fire and didn’t want to burn to death,” Mr Doodson said.
“I couldn’t open the driver’s door. His vehicle had pushed the door under the back-passenger door. I had to turn with my heavy work boots on and kick it open before falling out of the car. I tried to get to the other car which was 20-30m away, realised how injured I was and collapsed. It was a scary scene with people running around on the road coming to help before the road was blocked off.”
The 61-year-old suffered a broken collarbone, fractured foot, spinal injury, torn knee and a severe eye injury requiring three surgeries from the airbag releasing. Three years later, he still experiences chronic regional pain in his foot, depression, PTSD and ongoing pain.
“I used to surf and hunt. I was an active pistol shooter and now I can’t see out of my right eye.
I couldn’t go on any of the rides with my grandkids because I can’t wear enclosed shoes. I can’t feel the side of the surfboard when I put my foot on it. The biggest impact has been not being able to return to work and continue when I had planned to work until 70. I did return briefly but my knee collapsed,” Mr Doodson said.
“My advice to others is to pay attention, to keep your eyes on the road and if you are assisting as a first responder after a crash, to be very careful of oncoming traffic which is not guaranteed to stop.”
Mr Doodson was grateful the other driver had admitted fault and had apologised after being charged and losing his licence for some time. He said he had made the decision to install the dash cam, which captured the moment he was hit head-on, to protect himself on the road.
Slater and Gordon Senior Associate Nicola Thompson, who is representing Mr Doodson in a motor vehicle accident claim against the other driver’s insurer, said drivers needed to be especially vigilant on narrow, winding roads.
“The crash that Richard survived is everyone’s worst nightmare. We take for granted that the other vehicle is going to remain in their lane. When there is a lapse in concentration and someone veers into oncoming traffic, the consequences often result in tragedy,” Ms Thompson said.
“Always remain alert when behind the wheel. Even if it’s a road you drive on every day, drivers can’t afford to be on auto-pilot or switch off.”
Ms Thompson said many people involved in accidents did not always understand their legal entitlements despite having CTP insurance.
“It’s wise to seek legal advice to understand your options and to find out what you can claim in terms of lost wages, medical costs or a lump sum payment for the pain and suffering you may have experienced as a result of being injured,” she said.