This months Barrister of the Month is Petar Starcevic, called in 1983.
What caused you to want to specialise in Personal Injury? Of course PI offers plenty to keep you interested in terms of developing law, but it is the medical evidence and issues that offer an entirely different dimension so far as a lawyer is concerned, especially in clinical negligence cases. This is why PI is so interesting and why I have always wanted to do more.
Describe the legal issues / challenges of a recent case: There have been so many developments in the law recently raising so many interesting issues that this is a difficult question. Recently I represented the estate and dependants in a double fatal accident case as well as representing the a survivor of the accident with serious head injuries. We had challenges on liability initially when the defendant was acquitted of all criminal charges, but eventually liability was conceded. We compromised the FAA claims at a JSM and were getting on with the expert evidence and care and rehabilitation of the survivor, but the landscape changed when the survivor also died unexpectedly before the compromise was completed. It all had to be re-opened and renegotiated with before we could then get approval from the court for the minor dependants. There is still a dispute between defendant and local authority over the local authority’s claim for the cost of accommodation it provided prior to the survivor’s death. It was a case involving lots of evidence and changing issues and very satisfying to bring it to good conclusion.
What was your worst / most embarrassing moment in Court or Court? Anyone who has been practicing as long as I have will have had embarrassing moments in court, so I will only give a recent one. I was in an RTA case which was listed in the multi-track because the insurer alleged it was a staged accident. Our witnesses were truly awful and each one made the case worse. At moments like that you wish you could crawl under the desk rather than keep up the unperturbed expression to the rest of the world.
Who or what is your inspiration? My inspiration is not a person or anything to do with law, rather it is learning how to deal with adversity. I think I was fortunate enough to learn that lesson at school and pick myself up after some early bad exam results. There is nothing like a kick up the backside to make you value your ambitions and work hard to achieve them.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of entering into Personal Injury Law? Like any area of law, my advice would be to only make PI your area of practice if you are genuinely interested in it. If you do not enjoy your work you are wasting a good portion of your life away.
If you could create or change any Personal Injury law or regulation, what would it be? I have a fundamental disagreement with Jackson’s reform which denies PI claimants 25% of their general damages and past losses. To me it is arbitrary and I think the abuses and problems with 100% success fees could have been addressed in other ways.
Away from the law, what do you like to do? I like to keep physically fit and active. I like climbing and mountaineering, but I realise I will not be able to do that forever. I also like walking around a golf course chatting with your mates, whilst incidentally propelling white balls into the rough.