Compensation provides people who sustain car crash injuries with the money they need to cover lost wages, future earnings losses and a range of other costs. But there are time limits for pursuing a claim.
In NSW, victims must commence proceedings within three years of the date of the accident, unless they can give the courts a full and satisfactory explanation for the delay.
Understanding how this works in practice can make the difference between a successful and failed claim. Let's examine a recent case involving a woman whose claim did not reach a courtroom until six years after the initial accident.
The woman suffered a number of spinal injuries and developed post-traumatic stress disorder during a crash that occurred in October 2011.
However, the plaintiff failed to serve a claim form on the relevant insurer until March 2015 – five months after the three-year deadline had expired. The insurer asked the woman for a full and satisfactory explanation for the delay, which was supplied and accepted.
As per the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999, the woman's claim proceeded to the Claims Assessment and Resolution Service (CARS) for a ruling. CARS is a Motor Accidents Authority body that handles claims in an effort to avoid legal proceedings and expedite settlements.
The service ruled in favour of the woman and offered her compensation, but she refused the amount and decided to proceed to court in 2017.
The option of proceeding to court after a CARS assessment is available, although claimants who were originally outside the three-year deadline must convince the courts their explanation remains full and satisfactory.
In addition, plaintiffs need to successfully argue that any damages they could receive meet a specific threshold. This figure is currently 25 per cent of the maximum amount they could be awarded for non-economic loss.
The woman in this case had to show a potential win would net her more than $112,500, which she was able to do through medical reports outlining her future care costs and out-of-pocket expenses.
NSW District Court also accepted the previous explanation for the delay in bringing the claim that the plaintiff had provided to the insurer. As such, Judge Phillip Mahony allowed the woman to proceed with her car accident compensation claim.
The three-year deadline for pursuing damages is important to remember, but it isn't set in stone and plaintiffs may be able to convince the courts to allow a claim outside the limit.
You should therefore contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to see whether or not the specifics of your claim would enable you to proceed.
Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers can help you make that decision. Please get in touch today to learn more.