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Car accident claims: A comprehensive guide

A car accident is a jarring experience and your emotions during this time may be amplified due to the many stressful legal processes that follow. This guide will help you prepare for filing a claim, deal with the unexpected and discuss what outcomes you can expect.

How to file a claim

Filing a claim for your motor vehicle accident is made a bit easier if you know the correct steps and state-specific guidelines. You’re able to file for compensation if you’ve been injured or if there is damage to your possessions such as your car and the contents of the vehicle at the time. You’ll likely qualify for personal injury compensation if you’ve sustained an injury that has prevented you from returning to work and cost you medical visits. 

You will start your claim at the scene of the accident. After you’ve put on your hazard lights to warn oncoming traffic, you must call the authorities if there is damage and injury to you or the other parties present At this point, you should make notes of the scene. Do your best to include:

  • The number of people involved.
  • The types of damage that resulted from the accident.
  • The names, addresses, insurance information and vehicle plate numbers of the other parties. 
  • The location, time and date of the road accident.
  • The conditions of the road such as potholes, black ice or debris.
  • The year, make and model of the other vehicle(s).

 

After the police arrive and assess the scene, you’ll make a claim with them and get a report number. At this time, you should call your insurance provider and give them details about the scene and the report number the police gave you. This will help the insurers uniquely identify your claim from others and potentially help move the process along more quickly. 

Once you’ve spoken with the necessary parties and left the scene, you should begin seeking legal advice and guidance from a car accident lawyer so you can start collecting motor vehicle accident compensation as quickly as possible.

Even if you feel like you may be at fault for the accident, be sure to leave the investigation up to your CTP insurer or TAC claim insurer. This isn’t to evade responsibility, it’s to make sure that you get a fair assessment of the accident for insurance coverage purposes. You may remember the event differently than what happened and admitting fault would put you at risk of losing any coverage that you may be entitled to.

What to do if you’re at fault or without vehicle registration

In general, everyone should follow the basic steps to cover their bases in an accident — take down information, record the scene and inform your insurance of damages. However, the details of collecting compensation and making a claim differ among states and territories. 

If you are the at-fault driver

The level of coverage you can claim depends on your level of fault. Fault refers to when a person fails to take reasonable care while driving on the road and causes an accident. You might be at fault if you were texting and driving, under the influence or speeding, for example. 

If you are at fault, it is your responsibility to pay all of the injured party’s damages. The extent to which you will need to cover the costs out of pocket depends on your level of insurance:

  • Comprehensive car insurance covers all damage to your car, regardless of fault.
  • CTP insurance claims cover the costs of personal injury claims made against you, but do not cover your car, nor the other party’s. 
  • Third-party property damage insurance will cover the cost of the damages done to the other person’s vehicle and property, but may not cover yours 

Sometimes identifying the person at fault is not as clear-cut in situations where there may have been multiple cars involved in the accident (called contributory negligence). If the insurance companies cannot determine who is at fault, then the costs will be split across the drivers. In situations where you do not feel as if you should hold any of the responsibility for the accident, you can file a claim against your insurer with the help of a law professional.

If you are driving without coverage or registration

Every licensed driver should have insurance while driving a registered car. You can still seek compensation if you have CTP insurance while driving an unregistered vehicle by claims through Nominal Defendant. This is a type of statutory body that aims to compensate injured drivers in motor accidents.

It is important to note that it’s illegal to drive without a license. With that said, if you are in an accident without a license or in an unregistered car, this does not immediately pin you as the at-fault driver. Insurance can choose not to cover you, however, if you drive with insurance. 

In short, if you are driving without a license or registration, collecting compensation can be extremely hard even with extensive injuries and not being at fault.

Time limits to claiming your injury

There are several types of damages you can claim based on the fault in the accident and how much pain and suffering you’ve endured. You could claim just for the damage to your car or to cover your medical bills and time away from work. Compensation aims to help you manage your life and get you back to your regular day-to-day activities as soon as possible. 

If you are too injured to file the motor vehicle accident claim yourself, a friend or family member can claim for you. 

Sometimes, your injuries may not be fully realised until much later. It’s important to visit a medical professional as soon as you can — if not right after the accident — so they can do a full assessment for injuries. 

Even so, a good rule of thumb is to file a compensation claim within 28 days of the motor vehicle accident. This amount of time is intended to give you a chance to contact the police if they were not at the scene and helps you remain eligible for coverage with your insurer no matter what state or territory the accident occurred. 

Ultimately you will have up to 3 months in NSW to lodge your statutory benefits claim and 3 years to make a claim for common law damages. In Victoria you have 12 months from the date of injury to make a claim and you can file a common law claim within six months. In the ACT, the laws differ further where you have 13 weeks from the date of the incident to apply for defined benefits. A claim for lump sum quality of life benefits cannot be made before 26 weeks from the date of a motor vehicle accident, and cannot be made after 4 years and 6 months from the date of a motor vehicle accident. In Queensland a Notice of Accident Claim Form is to be lodged within three months for Nominal Defendant claims and nine months for all other claims (but within 1 month of the first consultation with a solicitor). 

Once the claim is processed and accepted, you can look forward to coverage.

You should file as soon as possible to ensure you can collect the maximum benefit to cover the costs and lost wages or the devastation of losing a loved one in the accident.

Compensation based on injury

Eligibility for compensation will help get you coverage for the damages and losses you’ve incurred, but the level of injury will determine how much compensation you can collect. 

Insurance companies will define your injuries based on two classifications: minor and non-minor. A minor injury could be something like a sore back or whiplash — a soft tissue injury. A non-minor injury involves more severe damages like a broken arm, head or brain injury or any other bodily harm that requires surgery. 

Your doctor will give you an assessment and determine your level of injury. From here, your insurance will use this information to write up your compensation:

  • Total body impairment: You can earn income support, home care expenses, medical care expense coverage, and a lump sum for past and future income loss and pain and suffering.
  • Non-minor injury: You collect total body impairment compensation without the added income for pain and suffering.
  • Minor injury: You will receive support for six months covering your lost income and medical and home care expenses. 

 

How much in the settlement you will collect depends on many factors and varies tremendously on a case-by-case basis. If you earn a certain amount of coverage and your injuries get worse, you and your motor vehicle accident lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners can file a new claim to get a reassessment. 

We are equipped with the experience and knowledge you need to earn the maximum benefit you deserve after an accident. Whether you’re at fault or severely injured, we are the leading Australian No Win No Fee Law Firm. Submit an enquiry today for a no-obligation legal advice consultation.

© 2022 
Gerard Malouf & Partners
 — Personal Injury Compensation Lawyers

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