Most people in Australia are aware that they may be able to claim compensation if they are injured as a result of a car accident that was another driver’s fault. They may know that they can potentially sue the driver for negligence and recover compensation for any medical expenses, the cost of repairing or replacing their own vehicle, other property, lost earnings and non economic damages, such as emotional and psychological suffering. But do they know there are time limits on such a claim? There are limits and it is important to act quickly, otherwise a claim may be declared invalid.
State law on personal injury claims varies slightly in each state or territory in Australia, but basically there are similarities. In New South Wales, for instance, the law states that an injured accident victim must provide completed form s72 MACA (a motor accident personal injury claim form) for the person at-fault’s insurer within six months of the accident. Failure to do this will normally bar the injured person from receiving compensation, although there are exceptions allowed, as will be explained later below.
The problem with time limits is that it assumes that someone who has been injured in a car accident is not too seriously injured and has the time, energy and competence to think about compensation and the idea of submitting a personal injury claim. Of course, many accidents do not necessarily result in very serious injuries. An injury or injuries may be treated and the victim able to resume normal life well within the time limit imposed by New South Wales’ MACA, the acronym for the Motor Accident Compensation Act 1999. This is the act which covers the necessary procedure after a motor accident, including personal injury claims. Ignorance of the law is not a valid reason for not submitting an s72 MACA in these circumstances. But what if the injury is much more serious? Perhaps, there has been severe concussion resulting in a coma, or serious brain damage? What if there has been amnesia or serious spinal damage, limiting movement?
While NSW’s law allows an exception to the 6 months limit if a “full and satisfactory” explanation for delay can be provided, it is best to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident which was not our fault.
There are many good reasons for contacting a compensation lawyer as soon as possible after an accident which has resulted in an injury irrespective of the time limit. Most personal injury lawyers, although not all, work on a “no win no fee” basis. This simply means that if a personal injury case is taken on by a lawyer, there will be no legal fee charged unless compensation is won on behalf f the client. Because the risk is taken by the lawyer, there is no reason why a lawyer shouldn’t be contacted as soon as possible.
To prove that an accident was caused by someone else’s negligent driving there must be sufficient evidence. This might come from an examination of the vehicles involved, the crash scene, witness statements, medical evidence and so on. Whatever the evidence, it will certainly be easier to obtain it sooner rather than later. If you, as an injured victim, are hospitalised or incapable of movement, a lawyer can work on your behalf, interviewing potential reliable witnesses, identifying crash evidence and searching for experts who may be useful in the event of reluctance on the part of the defendant’s insurer to admit fault.
If the six month limit does come before a personal injury claim is submitted, then there is still a possibility of a claim being allowed. This involves completing form s73 MACA (in the NSW example being used in this article) and submitting it to the at-fault party’s insurer. This late submission of the claim must be accompanied by a “full and satisfactory” explanation why an earlier claim within the normal 6 month limit wasn’t completed. An example would be an injury so serious that normal communication wasn’t possible. Obviously, a court is unlikely to be impressed unless there is sufficient evidence or documentation to back up the “full and satisfactory” explanation.
Unfortunately, the more serious the injury or injuries, the more important it is that compensation is forthcoming. Long term injuries may deteriorate later on or become life-long afflictions, demanding effective compensation to allow a normal a life as possible. It is when these more serious injuries happen that the need for urgency in initiating a personal injury claim becomes apparent.
For experienced legal assistance and help with vehicle accidents of all types, contact one of our personal injury lawyers at an office of Compensation Lawyers in Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney.