Being in a car accident and going through the physical pain, inconvenience and expense of hospitalisation, seeing doctors and therapists, missing hours from work or other important life events, can leave you wondering if you should make a claim for compensation against the person/s whose actions caused you harm. A claims of this type is known as a Personal Injury Claim.

What is personal injury?

Personal injury is defined as general physical and/or psychological damages to a person who is not the at-fault ( negligent ) person in an incident, be it caused by a driver of another car, an individual, a business or employer or a manager of a public space.

Claims can be for physical injury as well as those psychological in nature because of wrongdoing or negligence.

Can I make a personal injury claim for a motor vehicle accident?

Many motor vehicle collisions result in the need for ongoing physical therapy and/or psychiatric treatment for anxiety long after the date of the car accident. And some injuries do not become apparent for weeks, months or even years after a crash.

If the car accident has left you disfigured, sustained a physical disability or emotional complications, the medical costs of rehabilitation are likely to be funded by the CTP insurer of the at-fault vehicle. And you will also be able to recover money for your ongoing pain and suffering as a result of the injuries or disability you have sustained.

What if my relative died from a car accident?

In Australia, a relative of a deceased person whose death was caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default of another person may commence an action for Wrongful Death for up to three years from the date of death, for medical and funeral expenses of the deceased. In addition, they can claim for loss of financial support and services if they were dependant on the deceased person.

When should I get a personal injury lawyer?

When you file a claim with an insurance company they will either admit or deny the liability for the negligence of the wrongdoer. If they admit liability, you may receive an offer, and if that dollar figure is too low, you may decide to contact a personal injury lawyer to negotiate on your behalf for a better result. If an acceptable deal cannot be reached, you may wish to claim for further compensation, and to do that you should engage a personal injury lawyer.

What are the rules in Australia?

Every 12 months it is estimated approximately 1.3 million Australians over the age of 15 experience a personal injury issue, with negative impact, ranging from loss of income, financial strain, stress-related illness, relationship breakdown or having to move home.

Many Australians are not aware of Australian personal injury law or are oblivious to the fact that they are entitled to make a claim at all. Unbeknownst to most, this includes almost every instance that involves the use of a motor vehicle.

In Australia, a claim must be lodged as soon as possible (unless there are mitigating circumstances). Generally, the time limit to begin legal proceedings is three years from the date of the accident. It is important to remember that each state has its own requirements and legal procedures, and that Commonwealth public servants work claims fall into a separate category altogether.

Unfortunately, the rules vary from state to state and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. For that reason, you should enlist qualified personal injury legal advice as soon as possible to find out how the rules apply in your state.

Australians find compensation can play an incredibly valuable role in their future, and can help them potentially avoid any adverse knock-on effects on broader health, social and economic circumstances, such as ongoing chiropractor treatment or replacing a crown on your tooth every five years.

How much should / can I claim?

It is very easy to underestimate the amount of money that injuries in an accident will actually cost you over the rest of your life. The circumstances of the accident, the cost of the medical bills and the loss of employment are what lawyers would use to determine if a lawsuit is necessary.

The severity of the injury, the number of days you are off work and the impact to future earnings, the cost of replacing your vehicle or other material possessions, current and future medical expenses and your post-accident economic situation should all be taken into account when your lawyer calculates the amount you are entitled to claim.

If you cannot live your life to the fullest as a result of your injuries (mental or physical) sustained at the hands of another, and continue to suffer, your lawyer will explain your position in relation to the laws that will support your claim in court and give you an idea of what the likely outcome might be.

How long does it take to resolve a personal injury claim?

About 80% of Australian claims reach settlement before a Trial occurs. In this instance, your claim may only take  less than a year to resolve. However, if the injuries are very serious or the claim is heavily disputed, a judge may need to preside over the case by way of a Trial, which would cause the claim to take longer, but a Trial is rare.

What evidence do I need to make a claim?

There is no magic bullet to proving a claim, which is why it is recommended you should enlist the services of a injury expert lawyer when you are injured. Your lawyer will manage the following:-

  • collection of evidence of injury, negligence or damages suffered
  • collation of medical reports, financial records, estimated costs or future medical treatment,
  • a psychological report describing any trauma or PTSD
  • police records
  • insurance assessment of the value of any material damages sustained

They will then present an argument to support your claim based on this evidence on your behalf.

Written by Fred Banks of Banks Lawyer

This is general advice only. For more specific information please contact your legal representative or Banks Lawyers directly.