Australia is a big country, which is one of the reasons we love our cars. Driving means independence and mobility. The downside of driving, of course, is motor vehicle accidents, which happen across Australia every day.
And while Australia has compulsory third party insurance schemes which means that drivers can make ‘no fault’ claims for compensation in the unfortunate event of being injured in a motor vehicle accident, the system can still be complicated and drawn out before achieving a successful resolution.
From statutory time limits on making a claim, to reporting the accident, getting the right health reports and records, and dealing with CTP insurers who may want to challenge your version of events, there are a number of pitfalls which can beset a motor vehicle accident compensation claim.
We outline the main mistakes people make below, but make the point that these can be avoided with the guidance of a legal professional experienced in car accident compensation claims.
1. Don’t ignore timelines
So you’ve been injured in a car accident. Other than immediately seeking attention for your (and others) injuries in the accident, if for some reason police don’t turn up at the scene the incident needs to be reported to them within 28 days of its occurrence or else your later compensation claim may be affected. The police should make a written report of the accident which you will also need later.
At this stage, you also have 28 days from the time of the accident to send a CTP insurer (the other driver’s insurer, for example) an Accident Notification Form. This short form can provide for immediate payment of up to $5,000 for treatment expenses and loss of earnings, regardless of who is at fault. It is not a form for compensation above $5,000.
To make a full compensation claim, within six months of the accident you must complete a Motor Accident Personal Injury Claim Form and send it to the CTP insurer you wish to claim against. After six months, you will only be allowed to make a claim in relation to the incident if you can provide a full and satisfactory explanation for the delay in filing your claim form, and that explanation is accepted by the insurer.
2. Don’t try and play doctor
As soon as possible after an accident you should make sure you see your chosen general practitioner to have all your injuries assessed and obtain a medical certificate, which will later be needed in any claim you make on the CTP Insurer of the vehicle which caused your injury. Be sure to detail any and all injuries you’ve experienced, no matter how minor they may seem. The accuracy of your health record can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful claim. Certain injuries which can at first seem minor can also worsen over time, potentially adding to your compensation amount down the track. You must undergo x-ray and MRI scans as early as possible as these will assist you in determining the extent of your injuries.
3. Don’t speak to an insurance investigator first
Making a claim for compensation against a CTP insurer will, naturally enough, start an investigation process on their side to establish the veracity of your claims. Insurance companies don’t pay compensation claims out of the goodness of their hearts. They have three months from the time of the accident to indicate whether they will accept your claim or not and in this time they will: check the police report of the accident; check your medical records to see what injuries you’ve sustained; and appoint an investigator to get your side of how the accident happened.
They will take a statement from you as well as other witnesses and the other driver you claim caused the accident. This statement can also include information about your personal history, work, and other injuries or conditions you have independent of those sustained in the accident.
But beware. Insurance investigators are experienced in asking questions in ways which may provoke responses from you that will not be to your ultimate benefit. You should always consult an experienced compensation lawyer before agreeing to speak with an insurance company’s investigator, ensuring you don’t say anything you shouldn’t.
4. Don’t try and resolve the claim with the insurer without consulting a lawyer
Some insurance companies will be quick to offer a person seeking compensation a sum upfront, in order to dispense with the matter quickly and avoid further action which could result in a larger settlement. Claimants will often see an offer of $10,000 or $20,000 as a good deal, meaning they avoid the time and expense of legal fees.
But in many cases, the compensation amount for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident can be 10 or more times the amounts above, when costs of health care, rehabilitation and economic loss are all taken into account.
By consulting a legal professional with experience in car accident victim compensation, you can get a better idea from the outset about the amount of compensation you might be entitled to and whether it’s worth pursuing instead of accepting the insurer’s first offer.
5. Don’t try to do it all yourself
As is apparent from the points above, there can be a lot of things to consider in pursuing a compensation claim when you’re injured in a car accident. Dealing with it all can be made more difficult by the fact you’re recovering from injuries and the trauma of the accident.
The fact many law firms who specialise in compensation offer a ‘no win, no fee’ deal these days means that you are far better off getting legal representation for any compensation claim. They can give you an accurate picture of how much you might be entitled to, how long it might take, and your chances of success. They’ll also help you avoid the pitfalls outlined above.
Harris Lieberman Solicitors has years of experience in pursuing compensation for victims of motor vehicle accidents and can smoothly guide you through the process. Contact our Albury & Wodonga personal injury lawyers today on (02) 6051 5100.