Understanding the full scope behind determining who is at fault for an auto accident is the first step toward earning compensation for a road injury. If you're wondering what to do in your case, this article will explore whether you qualify to make a claim, how long you have to file and how to proceed once you get started.
How do you know if you qualify for compensation?
Every state in Australia has its own laws surrounding compensation for a road injury based on who is at fault for the accident. There are "no-fault" and "fault" schemes that highlight the level of responsibility someone may own for the accident. Some states may even allow for someone who is at fault to receive compensation. The responsible party is the one financially "on the hook" for vehicle and physical damages, although typically their insurer will be the entity providing the payout.
For example, in South Australia, you may only make a compensation claim if it's determined you're not at fault for the accident — meaning that you have no responsibility for the accident. In New South Wales, however, anyone who has been injured in an accident may make a claim. In any state, you will file through your compulsory third party (CTP) insurance and they will be your first line of determination of fault.
Unknown or uninsured vehicle claim
If the person you were in an accident with had an unknown or unregistered vehicle, they also do not have CTP insurance. In this case, the claim will be filed under the Nominal Defendant Scheme. The Regulator of the claim will direct a CTP insurer to manage details of the at-fault vehicle, if it was not registered or unidentifiable. In any state where an uninsured driver causes an accident, they will need to pay out of pocket for the damages.
Proving liability for an accident usually involves showing that the other person on the road was negligent. In order to prove negligence you will need to prove two points:
- A legal obligation was violated. Everyone on the road (drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists) has a legal responsibility of care to prevent injury to others. Failure to follow this basic road policy will put you at fault for an accident.
- There was a breach in the duty of care by putting other people on the road in the line of danger.
The person's breach of duty has to have a direct or approximate cause of the accident in order for them to be completely at fault. This means that if the other person had been more careful or more aware, the accident would have been avoided. And, because of their haphazard behaviour, the accident led to harm, physically or mentally, or another loss has occurred.
When you bring the case to the CTP insurer, they will likely follow these principles in determining fault and compensation.
As an important note before filing, no matter if you think you are at fault or not, remember never to claim fault at the scene of an accident. It's likely that your memory of the event is different from the actual sequence of mistakes that led up to the accident and you do not want to preemptively disqualify yourself for compensation when you may not have the full story.
Types of injuries you can claim
Many possible auto accident injuries can qualify you for compensation. Your CTP scheme will help cover personal injuries and are broken down into two categories: statutory benefits and personal damages. Statutory benefits are usually for the person who is not responsible for the accident and are basic benefits that cover injuries and loss of earnings. Personal damages claims will cover prolonged physical, mental and economic injury.
You can file a claim for any number of damages such as:
- Bicycle accidents.
- Brain damage.
- Spinal damage.
- Lost limbs.
- Quad bike accidents.
- Motorcycle accidents.
- Psychological trauma.
- Passenger injury.
- Pedestrian personal injury.
In some states, the degree of injury will determine how much compensation you receive. In NSW, injuries are categorised as minor or non-minor, such as the difference between a sore back and a lost limb. After an accident, always visit a doctor for a full check-up on your injuries — even if they may not be major — so you have a medical record of your pain. This will help prove your injury if you decide to file a claim.
Time limits on filing a claim
Because each state has its own policies about road injury claims, the time you have to file also varies. As a general rule of thumb, the deadline you should keep in mind is 28 days. Across states, if you file an injury claim within 28 days of the accident, you will likely be able to receive full benefits depending on your level of fault. This includes payment for the days of work you missed while injured.
Generally, though, you should try to file as soon as you can through your state's CTP. Claims often take time to process, so the sooner you make a move, the more likely you are to receive reimbursement and benefits from your provider.
Sometimes, however, you don't feel the effects of the accident until much later. Here is a quick view of each state's time limit on filing a claim and receiving full benefits:
- NSW: 3 months after the date of the accident for statutory benefits.
- Victoria: 1 year after you first notice the injury for statutory benefits.
- Queensland: 9 months after you first notice the injury for statutory benefits, but 1 month after consulting a personal injury lawyer.
- South Australia: 6 months after the accident.
- Western Australia: 6 months after the accident.
- Tasmania: 12 months after the accident.
- ACT: To receive early benefits, you can file within 30 days of the accident. To receive additional benefits you have up to 9 months to claim through CTP and up to 1 month after speaking with a lawyer.
- Northern Territory: 6 months after the accident to file.
After you reach out to CTP and your insurer, they will likely get back to you within three days about the results of their investigation.
Before you lodge your claim
The best thing you can do to assist the progress of your road accident compensation claim is to file a claim with your insurer, collect a medical diagnosis and treatment documentation from professionals after your injury and speak with a lawyer for advice.
Your insurer will need evidence of your injury from a medical professional. As soon as you leave the accident, check in with a doctor to assess your physical health. This can kick off the paper trail you'll need to prove you are actively seeking treatment for your injury and that you've taken the necessary steps to improve your health.
Some claims can be complicated, such as realising an injury after you've already made a claim or having multiple insurers involved. A lawyer can help you navigate through the details and help win you full benefits.
After lodging the claim
Once you have made the claim with your insurer, they will give you information and assistance for each step of the claim process. The goal of insurance is to ensure you have the car accident compensation and medical attention you need to get back to your everyday life.
After the CTP insurer accepts your claim, you will receive a claim number and contact information for the consulting team that is managing your personal injury claim.
After lodgment, the at-fault person and any witnesses will be contacted to understand the full scope of the event. If the police were called to assist in the accident, CTP will collect this information as well. All of this information will support your claim as the not-at-fault victim of the accident and determine how much compensation you will win.
In the meantime, keep your road accident claim number close so medical providers can bill the insurer after your claim has been accepted. You can also submit receipts or unpaid invoices for your injury treatments to the insurer with your claim information any time after the claim has been lodged.
The best way to earn full compensation is by being completely honest about the information on the accident and very meticulously reading through everything the insurer sends you.
Getting your deserved compensation
Filing a motor vehicle accident compensation claim can be a lot to handle on your own while tending to an injury. It's easy to miss a step or get so overwhelmed with treatment that you miss a deadline. This is why working with a personal injury law office can be your saving grace.
Personal injury lawyers have seen every issue and accident you can throw at them and are professionally prepared to handle the toughest insurance battles. Typically, the reason accident victims have not received their deserved compensation is that the road traffic accident claim was improperly filed or not enough information was provided.
Whether you're a pedestrian or driver, you deserve to have your medical bills covered for an injury you did not cause — or even if you did.
Typically, personal injury accident claimants will receive a lump-sum compensation. The reimbursement includes everything you should have earned while you were injured and how much you would have earned in the future. If you have an injury that accounts for 10% or more permanent impairment, compensation will also help to improve your quality of life despite the injury.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, Gerard Malouf & Partners is here to help. We offer no-obligation legal advice back by a no-win, no-fee policy to give you peace of mind. You can trust the leading Australian law office that specialises in road injury claims in every state. Contact us today to set up an appointment and we look forward to helping you receive the compensation you deserve.