How long after a car accident can you file a claim in Australia?

PUBLISHED 01 Sep 2020

The immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle accident can be tense and frightening, with everyone focused on the safety of themselves and the other participants. While at the accident scene, after calling the authorities and taking security precautions such as turning on hazard lights to warn away other drivers, you should make sure to note the details about the incident.

Relevant details in NSW include the licence plate number of the vehicle you believe to be most at fault for the incident occurring. This is true even if you think your car was the one most responsible. In this case, you use your own licence plate number when using the state government’s insurer connection tool, CTP Connect. Police may be able to assist you in finding a licence plate number if you did not take it down at the time.

Exchanging insurance information with the other participants in the car accident is important. The NSW Police note that insurers are responsible for many of the activities that follow a collision, such as determining fault and assessing potential compensation. After this exchange, it’s good practice to leave the site as quickly as possible for safety reasons. Lingering near the road puts you at risk of suffering more harm.

After safely leaving the site and having your vehicle towed, it’s time to take action based on the level of damage and injury incurred. This includes filing claims for potential compensation for your injuries, physical or psychological. Furthermore, you can also make a workers’ compensation claim if you were on the job at the time of the car accident.

While it’s important to file your claim as early as possible after a vehicle accident has taken place, there may be mitigating factors stopping you. For instance, if your injuries were severe, recuperation time may have to elapse before you are capable of making the claim. It’s important to remember that there are time limits, however.

How long do you have to file various types of claims in NSW?

Auto accident compensation is governed at the state level in Australia. In New South Wales, the body to deal with is the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority. There are several types of damages you can claim, based on fault in the accident and the amount of harm you suffered in the incident. The current system was reformed at the end of 2017 and applies to accidents that have happened on or after December 1, 2017. There are separate rules governing older accidents.

There are different deadlines for the various types of claims you can make, each of which is governed by the type of injury or loss incurred. You should keep these deadlines in mind, while also making a point of filing as quickly as you can. Though the deadlines typically have exceptions, you will have to furnish explanations as to why you did not file the claim on time.

Personal injury benefits

While you can file a personal injury benefits claim for three months after a motor vehicle accident has occurred, the real deadline you should keep in mind is 28 days. First of all, 28 days is the time limit to report the incident to the police if they were not at the scene. Furthermore, unless the insurer receives your claim within that period of time, you won’t be eligible for the full potential benefits associated with experiencing a car accident, including compensation for back pay you’ve missed while injured. Back pay starts on the day after the accident and is calculated weekly from there.

You can claim if you are a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian – anyone hurt is eligible. You cannot make a claim, however, if you were at fault and driving an uninsured vehicle or if the car accident resulted in a serious driving offence charge against you. 

Making the claim quickly is important, and you can proceed if you are still waiting for some details. Insurers will respond if they need to verify incomplete information. Furthermore, a representative such as a family member or a friend can make the claim for you if you are incapacitated in a hospital or otherwise unable to fill out the application.

When calling the police to report the accident, you can learn the event number for the incident, which will help you file your claim. The costs of your initial hospital care and ambulance ride, if needed, are covered under the personal injury benefits scheme. Your doctor will give you a Certificate of Fitness, which will help you make your claim. Also helpful is a recent payslip, so you can prove what your income is for lost weekly expenses purposes.

Getting the event number from the police is an especially important part of seeking compensation because this is the main method of proving to insurers that the claim is real rather than falsified. If you cannot for any reason receive this number, you will need alternative forms of evidence. These could include witness statements, accident scene photos or news reports about the incident.

When you make this type of claim, the insurer will reply to you within three business days, according to SIRA’s regulations. The processing of the claim will take no more than four weeks. From there, your medical and treatment costs will be covered for up to six months, or even longer for some very serious types of incidents. It is a matter of working with the insurer to create a recovery plan that will guide you through the healing process.

You can receive payment for 95% of your wages if you are unable to work, for a minimum of 13 weeks. From 14 weeks to six months, you may qualify for 80-85% of weekly earnings. After six months, you may still be eligible for income support, depending on your fault in the accident, or whether the injuries were deemed “minor.” For support longer than 20 months, it’s worth considering a lump-sum claim. Income support stops at 24 months with no lump-sum claim, then after five years in all cases.

Lump-sum compensation (common law damages)

More serious injuries incurred by people who are not at fault can lead to a longer-term type of claim for common law damages or lump-sum compensation. You have three years from the date of the accident to make such a claim. If you have 10% or less permanent impairment, filing between 20 months and three years after the car accident is a way to extend your income support payments from two years to three years.

If the permanent impairment you have suffered in the motor vehicle accident is determined to be greater than 10%, you can file any time after this discovery is made. At this point, you can seek out a longer-term settlement which falls into two categories. Financial compensation is based on future wages you will no longer be able to earn because of the extent of the injuries you’ve sustained, while non-financial compensation is designed to help you with the pain and suffering, as well as lessened quality of life, resulting from your injuries. 

The insurer for the responsible party has three months to consider a lump-sum claim. You may have to undergo medical assessments during these months to reassure the insurer that your injuries are severe enough to merit common law damages. Once the insurer admits liability, the company provides medical recovery assistance. Assisted by your lawyer, you and the insurer collaboratively reach an acceptable sum for your damages. You can have the claim assessed by the government if you cannot reach an agreement with the insurer.

Funeral expenses

If you are the “legal personal representative” of someone who has died in a car accident, usually meaning the next of kin, you can put in a claim for funeral expenses. This type of claim must be made three months or less after the date of the accident. Sometimes, extensions are granted for this period, but you will be asked to explain why the claim did not take place during the three months. It’s worth noting that the timing of the claim is not based on when the funeral takes place: You can claim either before or after.

The expenses associated with the funeral that are eligible for compensation include the cost of the ceremony, as well as the cremation or burial and the fee paid to the funeral director. The coffin, the hire cost of the morning car, the site in the cemetery and the flowers used are also eligible, as are the death certificate and the notice in the newspaper.

To make your claim, you will have to have invoices or receipts for costs you have paid, a copy of the death certificate and the event number assigned to the accident by the police (or equivalent proof that the incident occurred). To apply for these expenses through the NSW CTP Assist service, the accident must have taken place in NSW. If the deceased lived somewhere else, “reasonable cost” to transport the body is a claimable expense.

Compensation for a relative following a fatality

Funeral expenses are not the only costs that may be covered following a fatal collision. If a relative who you depended on for financial or service support has died in a car accident, you can apply for benefits. You have 3 years from the time of the car accident to make this kind of claim. After that, there are exceptions made, but you will have to explain why you were delayed. 

While SIRA admits that the definition of “dependent” can vary, this type of claim is typically made by spouses or other domestic partners of the deceased or children who have lost a parent. When you file the claim form, you should include evidence of the accident as well as of your relationship to the person. The insurer will then investigate and either accept the claim, request more information or deny it. In the case of denial, there is a review process, starting internally at the insurer and then involving the government.

How long do you have to make car accident compensation claims in other states?

Since state insurance bodies are the ones responsible for motor vehicle accidents, there are different rules governing the process outside of NSW. For example, you have six years from the date of an accident to file a common law support claim in Victoria without citing extenuating circumstances, while the time since the accident  also impacts which medical services are eligible for compensation without a specific request in that state.

In Canberra and the ACT, the rules differ again. You have 30 days from the incident to apply for early treatment expenses of up to $5,000, then three months (for Nominal Defendants) or nine months (for a CTP insurer) from either the accident or the onset of symptoms to seek longer-term or higher-value personal injury compensation.

While the dates and details regarding plans are handled on a state-by-state basis, the general rule remains the same: You should make your claim as soon as possible to ensure you receive maximum compensation for the pain and suffering caused by a motor vehicle accident, as well as any lost wages, or the devastation caused by the death of a loved one.

Why should you have an expert lawyer on your side when you make your claim?

While the laws around car accident compensation claims are designed to be relatively straightforward, there is always a chance that the insurance company will contest your request for damages. Furthermore, in cases such as seeking lump-sum compensation for permanent impairment, there are unavoidable complexities to proving how seriously you have been affected by the incident and how much money you should therefore receive.

When a case reaches a contested stage, wherein the court system must step in to determine whether your claim should be paid, you will be glad you have an experienced solicitor on your side to give you support and advice through the whole process. With an in-depth knowledge of every aspect of the accident compensation claim process, the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers are key allies in your efforts to receive fair compensation following an accident.

To start the process or simply to receive free preliminary advice, call us on 1800 004 878 or email your enquiry today.

 

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.