A Perth woman who stopped and comforted a dying man at a horrific crash scene has urged others not to think twice about doing the same despite being refused compensation for the debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder she suffered in the aftermath.
Dee Smith, an administration manager, had been driving to Busselton in 2010 to collect equipment for her employer when a car crash unfolded in front of her. She pulled over and found one of the drivers with severe head injuries, staying by his side and comforting him until he died about 90 minutes later.
Though her actions were described by a court as commendable and it was accepted she was unable to work because of post-traumatic stress disorder, she was refused workers compensation because legally she was not expected by her employer to stop during the work trip and help at a crash she was not involved in.
The District Court appeal ruling, which upheld an arbitrator's decision to refuse Ms Smith workers compensation, also noted there was no legal obligation on anyone not directly involved in a crash as a driver to stop and help. The only duty for witnesses was to give their details to police.
Ms Smith began to feel unwell after the crash and saw her doctor that day but continued to work for 30 days despite her condition. Eventually, the impact of what she witnessed hit her so hard that that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and declared unfit for work, prompting her to seek workers compensation.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Irena Siljanoska said the "complex and unique" case had seen Ms Smith do what most people would do after witnessing such an accident. The law firm had argued that Ms Smith was injured while travelling in the course of her work and would now review her legal options.
Ms Smith said the injured man's face remained etched in her memory."Comforting a man as he dies right in front of you is something I wish no one ever has to experience," she said.
But she did not want others to question doing the same if confronted with a similar tragedy.
"I did what anybody would have done in the same situation," she said. "You see people in need and you help."