The horror of the fatalities that occurred yesterday at Dreamworld will reverberate for a long time amongst anyone that was witness to the terrible accident, but none more so than the families of those affected. One small consolation for the families of the victims is that they are likely to be able to sue Dreamworld and claim compensation for causing the death of their loved ones.
Whilst the incident is still being investigated, it seems clear that something in the process went horribly wrong, which led to the raft overturning and ultimately the deaths of mother of two Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett, his partner Roozi Araghi and a 42 year old woman originally from New Zealand.
Questions will undoubtedly be raised about how this accident could happen. Was it the fact that the ride was simply old (30 years old) and had deteriorated to the point where it could no longer be considered reliable? Was there a defect that Dreamworld should have known about if they had done a full and thorough maintenance inspection of the ride? Had it been regularly serviced and maintained, with parts and equipment replaced before they got to the point of failing? Was there an emergency button that could have been pressed when the raft in front of the raft that ultimately flipped became stuck? If so, why wasn’t the emergency button pressed before the tragedy occurred? Given the problems that were being experienced earlier in the day with the ride, should the ride have even been operating at all?
These questions and more will no doubt be answered by the coroner, workplace health and safety and police investigators. One thing is for sure though. This sort of thing should not happen on any ride at a theme park but particularly on a ride that is slow moving and understood to be safe even for children over the age of two.
If Dreamworld is found to have failed in their duty of care towards the unfortunate victims of this tragedy, their families have potential compensation claims in the form of a dependency claim and a personal injury claim for any psychological injury suffered as a result of the deaths of their loved ones. Anyone who witnessed the tragic event and suffered a psychological injury would also have an entitlement to bring a claim for compensation.
Mrs Goodchild’s husband and her two young children will have an entitlement to bring a claim to recover any financial benefits that they would have received in the future from income received by Mrs Goodchild. They can also claim for the loss of domestic care and services that Mrs Goodchild would have provided in the future if she had not been tragically killed. Similarly, if the other victims had children or other dependents, then those dependents will also be able to claim similar compensation. This compensation can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The families will also be entitled to claim any funeral expenses and other expenses associated with relocating their loved ones back home to Canberra.
In addition to the above claims, there is a distinct possibility that a number of family members, and even a number of witnesses to the event, may suffer psychological injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of witnessing or learning of the tragedy. If that happens, then those family members and witnesses will have a right to bring a compensation claim for the pain and suffering and other losses (particularly financial losses) they have suffered and will suffer in the future as a result of their injury. These claims also often result in awards totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.
Whilst this would presently provide little comfort to the victims of this tragic event, the fact remains that this is going to have a devastating effect on the families of the victims and anyone else involved and the financial burden placed upon them may well be crippling. It therefore helps to know that there is something that they might be able to do about it when the time is right.
In the end, however it turns out, there is no doubt that this has been a tragedy of the highest order. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased and everyone affected by this tragic event.
Author: Sean Delpopolo, East Coast Injury Lawyers