Motor accidents personal injury law is a very specialised area which has evolved from the Motor Accidents Compensation Act and its Regulations which commenced on 5 October 1999 (See Frequently Asked Questions below). The then state Labor government created new laws which greatly affected compensation entitlements to a large percentage of claimants, with a view to preserving significant compensation to seriously injured claimants.
Victims of a motor accident who were injured after the creation of the new laws were surprised to see the limits in compensation and their entitlements, notwithstanding their pain and disabilities from their injuries. However, it takes an experienced lawyer to ensure that you can still be entitled to fair compensation under the law, whether your injuries are major or minor.
The new laws also created a new Motor Accidents Authority which has many powers to deal with claims. Most claims are regulated by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA). The old laws dealt with motor accident claims in Court. Now, most cases are dealt within one of the arms of the Authority, being the Claims Assessment Resolution Service (CARS). CARS appoints Assessors, who, like judges, decide on what your claim is worth.
The degree of your medical permanent impairment resulting from your injuries and other entitlements are also decided within another arm of the Motor Accidents Authority, by the Medical Assessment Service (MAS). MAS appoints Medical Assessors, who will decide if you have an impairment that exceeds a certain percentage threshold, which would thereby entitle you to pain and suffering damages. The new laws also established methods as to how, amongst other things, permanent impairment of your injuries are calculated, and this is subject to strict procedures.
The history of CARS and MAS has evolved in procedures that were the subject of further reforms, and as a result, a further body of laws were created by judges to work out some of the difficulties that have developed since the laws commenced.
Claimants are often shell-shocked by the many different matters that need to be dealt with in insurance claims, and we are happy to advise you of all your legal rights, in a face to face meeting and in writing as to the procedures involved, and how this will impact on your personal circumstances.
We know that as a result of your injuries, you have suffered from changes in your life which were totally unforeseen. Most people suffer from physical injuries as well as shock from the impact of the accident which can lead to anxiety, post traumatic stress and severe depression. We have seen clients and their families who have been devastated by the consequences of a motor vehicle accident. You have a right to claim compensation for physical or psychological injuries which are associated with your accident.
We also know that each claim is different. We embrace the challenges that each claim has, whether you suffer from minor injuries, whether you suffer from painful or nagging injuries that have changed the course of your day to day life, or whether injuries have had a catastrophic effect on you and your family; they are wide ranging and have an impact on your specific individual circumstances. Your entitlement to damages will therefore be very different to other claims, even if they appear to be similar.
You need to know what your rights are, and you have many. You also have a number of duties under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act. There are many steps and pitfalls in the process of a claim, and we want to let you know what they are.
There are important time limits also, and it is not simply a matter of lodging your claim form on time. The new laws have placed time limits throughout the life of your claim, and often you cannot proceed to the next step of your claim until a previous step has been fully completed. We use our vast experience in personal injury law, as solicitors and also having worked in the insurance industry. You need a lawyer who not only knows the law and the many steps required to proceed in a claim, but you also need someone who is determined to win and to act as your voice.
Many claimants who have been hit a heavy blow from their injuries cannot fathom the impact of their accident, and determine how to plan their future. It takes an understanding approach to determine what is right for you, and we take great care in listening to you. We will also try to fill in the gaps that claimants often miss, because the whole process can be overwhelming to people who are unfamiliar with compensation law, and also because your circumstances have made it harder to find a solution to your problems.
Some frequently asked questions
Do I need a lawyer? Why can’t I handle my insurance matter directly?
We have found that many injured people who suffered from the impact of an accident for the first time in their lives have an expectation that their rights are automatic, and that the insurance company will provide claimants with the compensation that they deserve. Many claimants have consulted with us simply because they are experiencing difficulties with payment of their medical expenses, as this is the first thing that greatly concerns claimants, because they are simply seeking relief after suffering from the trauma of an accident.
Claimants have rights to ensure that their reasonable day to day medical bills from the accident are paid, and sometimes you need someone to state your case on your behalf. Unfortunately, insurers and claimants often do not agree as to what is the right amount of compensation. Claimant’s rights are limited to what the law allows, but there are still significant rights available to claimants. We have seen all too often a disparity with what insurance companies believe and what we believe is the right amount of compensation that our clients should be entitled to. In our legal system, where there are competing rights between injured people and insurance companies, you need a voice that will argue your rights in your favour, as best as is possible, and we know what to do to help you achieve the best results in your claim.
Why should I lodge a claim?
Many people either overestimate or underestimate their rights to compensation. You should see a lawyer who will advise you of your legal rights with your claim in a straightforward and balanced way. We will assess your claim with all the relevant information, and provide you with a fair and accurate assessment of what we think your claim is worth. There is no reason why claimants should be promised the world, only to be disappointed in the end. There are no guarantees, but we always aim to proceed with your matter so that you can achieve some degree of certainty and peace of mind, so you can work on more important things in your life. We will fight your case with great determination to advance your legal rights, which is why our success rate is close to 100%.
I was told not to bother lodging a claim as I would lose the case. Why should I waste my time?
We have seen many clients who have taken the first step with some hesitation, and often people are misinformed as to whether they have any rights as a result of an accident. Circumstances as to an accident are not always straightforward, and claimants need to know if they still have rights to receive compensation. People have been surprised as to the rights they may have as a result of their injuries. Understandably, taking the first step to see a lawyer may appear to be very daunting, and something we would normally avoid. However, we provide an alternative to clients with our friendly, understanding and easy way of communicating with you. We use a no-nonsense approach and we will speak to you in plain language. In rare cases we may even advise you not to proceed with a case that does not have merits.
How much will it cost me to run my case?
We will act for you as your lawyers on a “no win- no pay” basis, so you are not required to pay for our legal costs if you lose the case. We also help you with payment of expert reports and in most cases you don’t need to outlay any money at all in your case. If you are suffering from financial hardship you do not need to pay for court filing fees, if going to court is necessary. Our legal fees will be paid by the insurance company at the successful completion of your case. The law requires lawyers in NSW to provide a detailed agreement to clients in relation to payment of your lawyer’s legal fees and any of the associated expenses and we will provide you with an estimate as to the costs of running your case, and we will also explain to you your rights as to what costs are recoverable from the insurance company. Of great importance to our clients and to us as your solicitors, is our aim at ensuring that your entitlements outweigh the costs.
I am worried that if I lose, I need to pay legal costs.
Most motor accident claims are resolved out of the court system, and in a tribunal type setting within the Motor Accidents Authority, where you don’t need to pay for the legal costs of the insurance company. It is in our experience that genuine claimants will receive compensation for their injuries. After establishing that you have prospects to make a claim, we will prepare your claim and determine the appropriate time in which to bring your claim to completion. We know the pitfalls, and we are determined to maximise your benefits and minimise the risks.
There are a very small percentage of claims that end up in Court, and claimants have opportunities to settle their claims before Court. In fact, most claims are resolved before a hearing, because they will be prepared properly, and an insurer will take your claim more seriously when it is fully prepared. We know how to prepare your claim, and experience is vital in running motor accidents claims.
How much compensation am I entitled to?
This will of course depend on your injuries. Some of your entitlements are capped by law; others will depend on how the accident has affected your life, whether it is short term or long term. You may have injuries that have become permanent. You may need an operation or many operations, or, as is often the case, your doctor will advise you that your injuries are permanent but surgery is not advised in your circumstances. You might need to take medication for the rest of your life. We will do our utmost to let you know the value of your claim as early as possible and if we have enough information about your accident and circumstances, we will advise you at the initial conference.
You might need to receive some care from friends, family or from service providers, or the community. You may not be able to remain in the workforce as a result of your accident, or your earning capacity might be greatly reduced. In catastrophic accidents you might require some major assistance and modifications in your home to allow you to achieve the best possible comfort in your life because of your drastic change in circumstances. In each case, this will determine how much your claim is worth. It will take an eye for detail, great attention and a very good listening ear to work out what is the best compensation for you. It will also require preparation, with the need for specially selected medical experts who work under different specialities of medicine to work out the extent of your injuries, and each case is very different. We take great care in thinking about the best strategy and approach in your claim.
How long does the process take?
Many clients would want their claim to be resolved in a matter of weeks or months. Unfortunately in most cases it is not that easy. We need to know the extent of your injuries, and you need to get to the point where we know that you have recovered to the best level possible. Each case is different, and people recover at different times. It is important that you should not settle your claim while you are still determining the extent of your injuries and how it is likely to affect you for the rest of your life. Injuries that turn out to be minor take a few months to reach maximum recovery; very serious injuries may take years, but most claims are resolved with the insurance company within 18 months to two years. We will never generalise your claim, and we will carefully listen to you to work out what is best for your specific case. Importantly, you need to know that your lawyer has everything under control, and that you believe that your claim is in good hands. As Personal Injury Specialists, we know how to serve your best interests, and we want to take the stress and the complications of your claim away from you, as we deal with motor accident claims and insurance companies every day. We will keep you informed throughout the process so that you can have peace of mind. Importantly, we want you to know that we are always on your side, right up until the completion of your claim, and this will never be compromised.
If my damages fall under the percentage threshold, should I still lodge a claim?
Of course, because your other damages may still be quite substantial, again depending on your individual circumstances. We will discuss with you for example, how your injuries have affected your earning capacity in a minor or major way, or whether you will have ongoing medical expenses or if you might need surgery in the future, whether you need ongoing care or whether you can no longer care for others as a result of the accident. We will also provide straightforward and realistic advice where necessary, so you can be able to plan your future.
I believe that I was at fault. Can I claim compensation?
The Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 is a fault-based scheme. However, there are circumstances where the driver of the vehicle allegedly at fault is not wholly responsible. Speak to us to discuss the liability of your claim. We will take a very close look at the facts and we will advise you whether or not you can still make a claim. The Motor Accidents Injuries Act which will commence in late 2017 is partly a no fault scheme that provides limited statutory compensation to all injured people, whether or not you are at fault, and it is also a fault based scheme for seriously injured claimants. Speak to us about your matter, we are here to help.
If you have any questions, please call us on (02) 8215 0512 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a conference with a compensation lawyer.
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Motor Accidents Reform in New South Wales
The new Motor Accident Injuries Bill 2017 was passed by both Houses of Parliament on 30 March 2017. It introduces a new compulsory third party insurance scheme for people who become injured or die as a result of a motor vehicle accident. The new Motor Accidents Injuries Act 2017 is scheduled to commence on 1 December 2016 and will introduce sweeping changes to entitlements to damages to injured people or the estate of victims. The new scheme is designed to reduce the cost of green slips and will remove common law rights to claimants who suffer from “minor” injuries.
The new act will create a hybrid type scheme which provides for statutory benefits to people who suffer from minor physical or psychological injuries in motor vehicle accidents, regardless of fault. However, rights to claim damages in the form of modified common law damages are retained for more serious injuries in cases where claimants can prove that the driver that caused the accident is negligent.
Entitlements to gratuitous care will be abolished by the new Act. Insurance companies will also have increased powers in resolving claims. There are a number of significant changes as a result of the new Act and unfortunately the rights of many claimants will be greatly reduced. You can call us on (02) 8215 0512 for free advice or email us on email@example.com and we can advise you as to your legal rights given the new changes.
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