All Posts By

Mark Nelson

call us for public liability claims

How to Make a Public Liability Claim in NSW?

What is a Public Liability Claim

A public liability claim refers to a claim made for injuries sustained in public places in accidents caused by the negligence (failure to exercise reasonable care and skill) of a person or organisation.

For instance, let’s say you’re walking through a shopping centre and you slip and fall as a result of a spilt liquid on the floor causing an injury to you. The owner of the shopping centre possibly could have prevented the unfortunate incident by ensuring that their cleaning staff better maintained the centre’s floor.

Compensatory damages are available under the Civil Liability Act NSW 2002 as follows:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Pain and suffering (past and future);
  • Past and future loss of earnings, including loss of superannuation contributions;
  • Cost of other assistance (domestic assistance, personal care provided by friends, family or professional organisations for the past and future).

Public liability claims derive from numerous accident types. Here are some examples:

  • Assault-related injuries;
  • Animal attacks (most commonly dog bites);
  • Injuries due to defective machinery;
  • A slip and fall in public spaces and facilities;
  • Food poisoning;
  • Sporting, recreational  injuries;
  • Physical assaults;
  • Sexual assaults;
  • Schools and playground injuries;
  • Aviation (planes, helicopters) injuries;
  • Maritime (boats, ships) injuries;
  • Hotels and other venues injuries;
  • Injury at a construction site;
  • School yard injuries;
  • Amusement venue injuries;  and
  • Injuries in rental premises (e.g. landlord/tenant).

Public liability insurance

In most cases, business (private or public) have public liability insurance for these types of incidents,  which essentially means that in making a claim against the business, you’re in fact making a claim against their insurer. Some people can wrongly assume they are pursuing legal action against the business and for that reason, do not follow through with a public liability claim, despite incurring significant inconvenience and financial hardship.

Notwithstanding this, it is not uncommon for people who have an accident in a public place to initially suffer from only a little pain and discomfort, choosing not to pursue a claim, only to later find that the injuries sustained were serious, requiring surgery. For this reason, it is often wise to seek medical attention regardless of the injuries sustained.

Proving a Public Liability Claim

In a public liability claim, the evidence of the incident is vitally important, because your lawyer will need to be able to demonstrate that:

  • The person or company at fault owed you a duty of care.
  • The person or company breached that duty of care.
  • As a consequence, you were injured and suffered loss.

Practically speaking, following an injury in a public place if you’re able, the following should be attended to.

  • The first thing you should do, when injured in a public place is to let the owner/manager of the business know.
  • Ensure pictures are taken of everything, the injury itself, the establishment, the object causing the injury.
  • Witnesses are very important, take notes of their names and phone numbers
  • Access any surveillance camera footage
  • Make a video recalling what happened right away
  • Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Seek advice from a specialised lawyer in personal injury claims.
  • Save all medical evidence, bills, receipts, doctor’s records and anything else proving you sustained an injury.
  • Financial documents are also important to prove a loss of income resulting from the accident.

Getting Help

Public liability claims can be difficult to prove, hence the need to ensure you collect as much evidence as possible as promptly as possible and seek legal advice.

These matters have very strict time limits that apply.

Proposed Reforms to The CTP Scheme

Proposed Reforms to The CTP Scheme

Changes to the Rights of Victims of Motor Vehicle Accidents

What rights do those injured in Motor Accidents presently have in NSW?

 It is compulsory for drivers in New South Wales to hold third-party insurer which covers any injuries covered to any person whilst driving a motor vehicle. The policy is not limited and it means that all victims of motor vehicle accidents are covered for the injuries that they suffer.

The compensation that is payable is usually referred to by the courts as ‘damages’.

a/ CTP Scheme Common Law Damages – Modified – for Victims of At Fault Accidents

Victims of motor vehicle accidents in New South Wales are currently entitled to modified common law damages. The object of an award of damages is to put the person back in the same situation as if the accident had not occurred. For reasons of economy, the entitlement to compensation is capped in several respects. Damages are awarded on a ‘once and for all time’ basis.

Damages are tailor made to the specific circumstances of the injured party. The damages are assessed in ‘heads’. The heads of damage that are usually claimed include:

i/ General damages for pain and suffering.

ii/ Loss of wages. This includes past loss of wages as well as the anticipation of loss in the future, including the loss of opportunity for profit, advancement or promotion.

iii/ Past and future medical expenses.

iv/ Nursing and domestic assistance.

Some of the ways in which the entitlement to damages is currently modified, or limited, include:

i/ There is no entitlement to recover general damages for pain and suffering except where the injury is found to have constituted a less than 10% whole person permanent impairment.

ii/ There is no entitlement to recover damages for care and assistance gratuitously provided unless the care has been provided for at least 6 hours per week and for greater than six months.

iii/ The reliance upon a 5% actuarial multiplier which lowers the damages awarded for future losses.

b/ No-Fault Compensation

Damages are also available irrespective of fault in the following limited circumstances:

i/ Catastrophically injured victims of motor vehicle accidents receive medical expenses and care on an as incurred basis.

ii/ Damages are available when the injuries are suffered in a “blameless” motor vehicle accident (the Sophie Delizio amendment).

iii/ Children under the age of 16 have a special entitlement to recover damages for medical expenses, care and funeral expenses irrespective of fault.

iv/ Medical expenses and potentially loss of wages are payable up to $5,000.00 irrespective of fault, provided the claim form is issued within twenty eight days of the accident.

c/ Benefits of the Current Scheme

i/ Compensatory Damages:

For the majority of innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents of New South Wales, the compensation awarded to them is assessed depending upon their particular circumstances. The intent of compensatory damages is to ensure that the injured party does not suffer as a result of another driver’s fault.

ii/ Immediate Payment of Medical and Rehabilitation Expenses:

During the course of the claim most medical expenses are paid as incurred and at the conclusion of the claim an amount is awarded to cover additional anticipated future expenses.

iii/ Payment of Legal Costs:

A victim of a motor vehicle accident who establishes an entitlement to compensation is entitled to have the majority of their legal costs paid by the insurer of the party at fault. In some circumstances the amount that can be recovered for legal costs is capped, but there is no restriction on a person’s entitlement to retain a lawyer at their own cost. When we buy a cupboard from Ikea, we expect an instruction manual. Most of us would be in a great deal of trouble without that assistance.

iv/ A Tailor Made Approach:

At common law, the court has an open discretion to award such amount of compensation as is necessary to put the injured party back in the situation as if the accident hadn’t occurred. While money can only do so much, it is intended that the compensation will cover all loss that has been suffered. This is important because no two cases are ever the same. Consider, for example:

  • An apprentice who will expect to receive a significantly greater wage when they obtain trade qualification;
  • Medical treatment that has been completed but may require a joint replacement in the future;
  • An injured party that is able to return to work after an accident but may need to retire early;
  • A mother who intends to return to work in the future.

CHANGES TO THE SCHEME

The Benefit Designs Options paper provided by the Government appointed reference panel stipulates at Page 1 that it has already been determined as Government policy that there will be changes to the CTP scheme to introduce a hybrid model of compensation, with benefits defined in the legislation (defined benefits) available to all, regardless of fault and limited common law damages available to those who can prove fault on the part of an owner or driver and whose injuries give rise to a permanent impairment of greater than 10% whole person impairment. The Benefit Designs Options paper, together with consultation documents provided by SIRA, indicates that the severely injured will have vastly reduced common law benefits under the proposed hybrid compensation model.

a/ Moderate to Minor Injuries

It appears clear that an arbitrary whole person impairment rating level is likely to be viewed as the gateway for accessing any form of common law benefits

For those who have not suffered a whole person impairment of greater than 10%, entitlement to loss of wages will likely be dictated by the insurer who is participating in the scheme for profit. Page 4 of the paper suggests that an insurer can undertake a work capacity decision for a person at any time. It appears that persons considered to be moderately injured or with ‘minor’ injuries, will have no access to legal representation unless a claimant lacks legal capacity or an insurer has denied liability for all benefits (example, by an allegation of fraud).   Access to justice by way of legal representation appears to be further limited by a stated policy that legal practitioners be prohibited from contracting out of prescribed set maximum legal fees in matters where claimants are allowed to utilise the services of lawyers.

Those injured would be entitled to defined benefits irrespective of fault. Injuries would be compartmentalised and the payment of a benefit would largely depend upon the categorisation of the injury, rather than the actual loss suffered. Wage loss would be compensated as the loss arises, but only as a proportion of the actual loss. The entitlement to claim loss of wages would end at a defined point in time irrespective of whether the injured person has the ability to return to work.

b/ Severely Injured

The government has as its preferred option an additional entitlement for the victims of “at fault” motor vehicle accidents, only in circumstances where the injury meets a requisite threshold: 10% whole person permanent impairment.

The impairment threshold is arbitrary and intended to operate as a gateway to define the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. There is no pretence that the 10% threshold is just or equitable, but merely economical. For example, a person who is in a coma for six months but then recovers may be found to have a 0% whole person permanent impairment.

WHY ARE THE CHANGES UNFAIR?

 a/ Access to Legal Rights

The government proposes that ordinarily only those who are severely injured will be legally represented. The victim of a motor vehicle accident will be prohibited from paying for legal advice from their own pocket unless they are severely injured. A severely injured victim may not realise that they have the opportunity of passing through the gateway and being determined as ‘severely injured’ without the benefit of legal advice. Good luck with that Ikea flat pack.

In all aspects of our daily life we look to experts for advice. It is a fundamental tenet of a free and just society that we are able to obtain legal advice about our rights. The government wishes to curtail access to legal advice because people who do not understand their rights will not make claims.

The independent review of insurer profit conducted at the request of the government found people who were legally represented obtained outcomes that are eight times greater than the outcomes for unrepresented Claimants.

Further, the proposed changes deny even an unrepresented victim access to the courts. The government proposes that disputes about a level of pay or the reasonableness of medical expenses would be determined by bureaucrats after hearing from the injured victim and the insurer, or its lawyer. The evidence that would be considered by the bureaucrat would be the documents obtained by the insurance company and submissions that it, or its lawyer, prepared compared to the documents that the unrepresented injured party was able to offer.

b/ Defined Benefits

The common law approach of assessing what loss and damage a victim has suffered is substituted for defined benefits which seek to pigeonhole compensation. The government intends to save money by paying defined benefits with the intention that the cost of the scheme will be more easy to calculate and as a result mean the cost of a green slip can be more readily determined. In fact, the saving will be made by reducing the entitlement to compensation.

c/ Finality

In our experience, most people who suffer injury want a final resolution. That usually involves payment for past losses and an allowance to cover the future all paid in one lump sum. The changes to the scheme will mean that even seriously injured victims will not be allowed closure. For the severely injured, payments of medical expenses can be accessed for life but subject to satisfying an insurer that the treatment is reasonable and necessary.

CONCLUSION

We are sceptical of the government’s intention with respect to the changes to the scheme. The government wants to remove access to justice and put in its place a bureaucratic scheme that offers defined benefits. The government is significantly more concerned with the cost of a green slip than it is of the rights of those injured in motor vehicle accidents. Aside from insurers, very few people will benefit from the government’s proposal.

[1] Motor Accidents (Lifetime Care & Support) Act 2006

[2] Chapter 1, Pt 1.2, Div 1 Motor Accident Compensation Act 1999

[3] Chapter 1, Pt 1.2, Div 2 Motor Accident Compensation Act 1999

[4] Chapter 3, Pt 3.2 Motor Accident Compensation Act 1999

Why Does the Government Want to Change the Scheme?

Stated goals of reform

The stated goals of reform are as follows:

i/ Increase the proportion of benefits to more seriously injured people;

ii/ Reduce the time it takes to resolve a claim;

iii/ Reduce opportunity for claims fraud and exaggeration; and

iv/ Reduce the cost of green slips.

 Subject to ascertaining how many additional claims are made by persons at fault in accidents, regardless of whether they are deemed to have minor to moderate injuries or serious injuries referable to a whole person impairment scale, it appears that the proposed reforms will achieve the stated goal of increasing the proportion of benefits to more seriously injured people. The key issue with this stated goal, in the author’s opinion, is that it will be of little comfort to the persons assessed as being ‘more seriously injured’ that they are receiving out of the scheme a greater proportion of compensation than before, if each of their individual claims results in the actuality of them receiving less compensation per claim than they would have before.   It is clear from the Benefit Designs Options paper that seriously injured people will receive far lesser sums for general damages and will have an inability to capitalise future claims for other heads that are presently available. Subject to how many additional claimants enter the scheme, by virtue of it being opened up to drivers at fault, beyond those catered for under the $5,000.00 limit pursuant to the Accident Notification Form process, for seriously injured people to receive a greater proportion of the overall benefits available to all injured persons, anyone with a minor to moderate injury will necessarily need to receive some fraction of the compensation previously available to them – which appears to be the clear scheme design.

In relation to the second stated goal of reform, reducing the time it takes to resolve a claim, it is difficult to see how any injured person, whether having injuries deemed to be minor, moderate or warranting the descriptor ‘more seriously injured’ can benefit from timeframes for cases being necessarily reduced. That is, under the present scheme, all innocent victims of accidents due to the fault of others are able to receive interim payments for medical expenses and for wage loss due to financial hardship and must allow a longer period to receive the balance of damages available as stabilisation of injuries under the medical guidelines is paramount for properly determining future impacts upon earning capacity, requirements for medical treatment and for domestic assistance. Forcing claimants to finalise claims without legal representation in order to achieve ‘claims velocity’ is likely to necessarily cause claims to be closed for persons before any opportunity is available to properly assess the longer term effects of their injuries. This appears to be a significant basis of concern for persons deemed to have minor to moderate injuries.

The third stated goal of reform is to reduce the opportunity for claims fraud and exaggeration.

To this extent, the Government should be congratulated on introducing a fraud task force for the purposes of achieving this end. One may be entitled to be more circumspect about praising media announcements to the effect that fraud is costing the NSW CTP Scheme in excess of $400,000,000.00 annually.   It is inherent in discussing the fraud element of any compensation scheme, that the extent of fraud can only ever be estimated. That is, if fraud were able to be measured with accuracy, there ought to be steps taken in order to address those responsible for the fraudulent activities and the discussion of the extent and cost of fraud in the scheme reflective upon statistics compiled referable to actual documented cases.

In any event, the introduction of the fraud task force is of such recent occurrence, that it appears premature to force upon innocent victims of motor accidents a reduced compensation scheme before the longer term work of the fraud investigation task force is known and understood.

The Government has taken positive steps to promote the reporting of suspected fraudulent claim activities.

Concern attaches to the extent to which the proposed scheme reform can eliminate or reduce fraud.

To a large extent, the policing of fraud has been within the province of the insurers who have derived on average 19% profit per annum for operating under the licensed conditions pertaining to the NSW CTP scheme. It would not appear unreasonable to suggest that the insurers would increase their activity to deter, monitor and report fraudulent claims.

It is unclear as to how the introduction of a no-fault scheme will deter fraud. The experience in the United Kingdom with the introduction of a no-fault scheme appears to indicate that opportunities for fraud actually increase in a no-fault environment. That is, the initial accident reporting procedures and ease with which persons can obtain entrance to the scheme are consistent with persons of mala fides electing to chance their hand to obtain compensation payments on a repeated basis.

In relation to the goal of reducing the cost of green slips, it is still not the case that any Government representative has guaranteed that premiums will reduce by way of response to introduction of proposed scheme reforms.

It appears reasonable to assume that by mere virtue of its existence, the fraud task force recently set up by the Government will reduce the tendency of some persons to attempt claims exaggeration or fraud and will have a significant effect on systemic attempts by any networks of persons to initiate fraudulent claims.

On that basis alone, it would appear prudent in relation to allow for the further passage of time before imposing wholesale change upon the scheme.

Why Do I Pay for a Green Slip?

NSW motorists of registered vehicles pay green slips because it is compulsory to do so. The compulsory third party system was introduced many decades ago in order that there be protection to motorists from law suits and to ensure that persons injured by motorists can have the certainty of there being an insurance policy behind any necessary claim for compensation.

The green slip payment in NSW also covers persons injured in circumstances where injuries are caused by an unregistered or unidentified vehicle – the Nominal Defendant Scheme.

The Nominal Defendant meets compensation claims by appointing a licensed CTP insurer to deal with such claims commensurate with its percentage market share overall.

Is CTP Insurance Expensive?

The answer to the question largely depends upon what a person receives in exchange for paying the compulsory third party premium.

Under the proposed new system, there will necessarily be many more Claimants than presently under the existing scheme.

For this to occur and for there to be no significant premium increase as a result, it follows necessarily that each injured person (whether innocent or at fault) will receive compensation that is some fraction of what innocent (not at fault) victims presently receive under the existing scheme.

A green slip does not hold much value for an injured person if they are unable to receive adequate compensation for injuries and are forced out of the compensation scheme due to a unilateral review of entitlement to wage loss, as appears to be proposed.

The Government’s own internal report (published by State Insurance Regulatory Authority) into the review of insurer profits in the scheme, indicates that in real inflation adjusted terms, green slip premium prices “are comparable to those of fourteen years ago”. This report, published by SIRA of the independent review of insurer profit within the scheme, is publicly available.

The report needs to be read in the context of the broadened coverage that is provided by way of categories of claimants under the scheme presently by virtue of introduction of blameless accident provisions and the no fault compensation scheme that already exists up to the sum of $5,000.00 for drivers at fault (all of which was introduced during the fourteen year period referred to). That is, presently, persons injured in motor accidents (including usually a motorist who in turn pays for a CTP premium) is getting more coverage out of the present compensation system for the same price in real terms.

The Injured Persons Association in 2013, when writing to the then Acting Minister for Finance, Andrew Constance MP, pointed out that over a longer period of time, the average premium from 1988 to 2013 had increased by only 60% to an average of $550.00. The CPI had increased 120% over that same period.

In nominal terms, as well as in relative terms, CTP insurance is cheaper than ensuring a motor vehicle comprehensively for property damage and the coverage, in real terms, is much greater.

Has Anyone Made Submissions Regarding Changes to be Made on Behalf of the Insured to Date?

Submissions were allowed to be publicly made by any interested person at the invitation of SIRA in relation to proposed scheme reform.

Submissions were made by and on behalf of the usual ‘stakeholders’.

It appears obvious that the most numerous stakeholders – the millions of premium paying motorists in NSW and the tens of thousands of persons effected directly and indirectly by motor accident related injuries in NSW each year, have not been adequately consulted. Most individuals do not properly understand what they will lose in terms of legal rights and insurance coverage by way of the proposed claims.

The first time that most people will find out about the true extent and consequence of the proposed change is when they have to make a claim in respect to injuries that affect their ability to work and provide for family members.

Aside from the noticeable increase in advertising by insurance companies promoting income protection insurance policies, there appears to have been no real step taken to adequately warn innocent victims of motor accidents of an increased need to consider taking out additional insurance policies such as income protection policies and sickness and accident policies in order to offset the harsh effects of the proposed legislation on compensation rights.

It appears likely that tens of thousands of individuals including those who rely directly upon bread winners within the family will be adversely affected within twelve months of the introduction of any legislation that purports to offer less than basic and fair compensation pursuant to the basic compensation principle that underpins the common law.

This appears to be yet another reason for the State Government to allow more time to elapse before hurriedly putting through proposals that appear to be patently harsh and disadvantageous to the majority.

In discussions between the ‘stakeholders’, as opposed to the members of the public who have no idea about the true nature of the proposed changes, it has been observed that the vast majority of citizens within NSW would prefer to sacrifice a potential saving of $2-3 per week in green slip pricing to remain with proper common law based compensation, rather than risk the financial perils of being unable to meet mortgage payments and other necessary payments that may occur in circumstances where persons are forced out of the system with inherent residual restrictions that effect their earning capacity, both short term and long term.

Submissions have been offered by various bodies including the Australian Lawyers Alliance, DRIVE, The Law Society of NSW and the Bar Council.

The submissions have ranged on focusing on the historical super profits made by insurers under the scheme with the suggestion that this ought to be the only area of focus for legislators in formulating any renewed CTP legislation. The submissions offered by persons purporting to represent injured persons in NSW have included representations to the Government that it would be appropriate to set capped legal fees for claims which have less than a certain quantum value (the quantum suggestions have ranged from $30,000.00 upwards to $50,000.00).

Has Anyone Made Submissions on Behalf of the Insurers to Date?

Submissions have been made on behalf of various insurers in relation to schematic change.  These submissions have focused on a suggestion that all injuries that are not catastrophic injuries can be successfully rehabilitated within a relatively short time. The submissions also point to claims exaggeration and fraud.

How Do Insurers Manage Claims Against People Without Legal Representation?

Duty to shareholders

Insurers have a duty to shareholders, not road users and certainly not injured persons who need to make claims for motor accident compensation.

Insurers are not criticised for fulfilling their primary obligation, which is to maximise profits for shareholders. It is simply necessary to acknowledge that obligation exists when giving consideration to how insurers are expected to behave when provided with a claims scheme that enables them to make unilateral decisions in relation to whether claimants remain within the scheme without fear of the claimants obtaining access to justice through legal representation.

The suggestion by insurers that rehabilitation is the way of solving problems for all persons injured on the road except for those most seriously injured with injuries greater than 10% whole person impairment may not fully acknowledge the necessary tendency of those doctors who are empanelled by insurers to take steps to ensure they remain on the panel of providers after the next internal review by insurers.

SIRA proposes, with the suggested scheme changes that appear to be on the table, to oversee and manage the actions of the insurers through adherence to guidelines through its staff (which will need to increase in numbers by a multiple that is difficult to estimate). The experience of thousands of injured workers in the workers compensation scheme in an analogous context pertaining to merit reviews performed by insurers in relation to wage loss disputes will be the subject of an Upper House inquiry in relation to the workers compensation scheme in October this year.

Again, when considering who the real stakeholders are in relation to the CTP scheme, it is important to acknowledge that insurers must account to their shareholders, not to their member road users.

Involvement of Compensation Lawyers

Legal costs have understandably been the focus of much of the discussion and perhaps form the major impetus for the proposed scheme reforms. Less than twelve months has passed since SIRA introduced compulsory reporting of solicitor/client costs and disbursements by lawyers in NSW representing injured plaintiffs.

The precise data has not been released in this regard.

We would suggest that, as with the introduction of the fraud investigation squad, the mere existence of the reporting requirements ought to be such that any untoward practises by a few would have ceased in a way that requires the passage of at least a further twelve (12) months before any probative review of the figures can be provided in terms of scheme outlook (and hopefully published).

On the statistics front, the SIRA report in to the independent review of insurer profits in the scheme notes that for claimants with legal representation under the scheme as it presently exists, the gross pay out figure has on average been 8 times greater than for claimants who are unrepresented. This would appear to be a fairly logical stand upon which to support the fact that individuals require legal representation when dealing with insurance companies.

Scheme Stability

It is acknowledged by most observers of the scheme, including the minister introducing the scheme reforms, that scheme stability is critical to the ability of the insurers to predict their profits and in turn, adequately price green slip premiums to cover the cost of claims.

In actual fact, according to SIRA’s own documentation (admittedly in the context of analysis of insurer profits, not reducing Claimant’s rights) the Scheme has been stable in terms of pricing relative to inflation for in excess of 14 years, despite broadened coverage that has occurred with introduction of blameless accidents and the no fault entitlements under the Accident Notification Forms.

Social Consequences

It is entirely predictable that injured persons under the proposed CTP Scheme will be removed from the Scheme without being adequately compensated pursuant to common law principles in relation to any future heads of damage.

Persons exited from the proposed new scheme will have their needs met by the tax payer, if they are entitled to receive Centrelink benefits.

Persons medical and financially able to obtain income protection policies will be the few not adversely affected by the changes.

Mark Nelson, BPC Lawyers

Proposed Motor Accident Compensation Law Changes

Proposed Motor Accident Compensation Law Changes

Australians Alerted To Proposed Changes To Motor Accident Compensation Laws – Press Release

BPC Lawyers is a leading Sydney legal practice and accredited specialists in Personal Injury law. In a recent communiqué they make all Australians aware of the proposed changes to motor vehicle compensation laws.
The Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, the Honourable, Victor Dominello MP announced in a media release on 2 March 2016 that the Government will be establishing a task force to counteract CTP fraud in New South Wales and will also conduct a review of the present CTP scheme. The Government has a clear agenda to reduce the cost of a green slip in New South Wales and is keen to see that a high proportion of the green slip premium goes towards helping the injured person. Statistical information indicates only 45% of the premium is paid in direct claimant benefits and furthermore, 19% of the premium represents profit for the licensed insurers. The Government has put on the table a number of potential reform options which are as follows:

Option 1 – retain the current common law, fault based scheme with process improvements;

Option 2 – retain the current common law, fault based scheme with adjustments to benefit levels as well as process improvements;

Option 3 – move to a hybrid no fault, defined benefit scheme with common law benefits retained in parallel; and

Option 4 – move to a fully no fault, defined benefit scheme with caps, thresholds and no common law.As these discussions have progressed since March 2016, it appears the Government is in favour of option 3.

This proposed scheme is similar to the scheme presently operating in Victoria which is managed by the Transport Accident Commission. BPC Lawyers believe it is important to note the present scheme in New South Wales is already a hybrid scheme with no fault benefits paid to a significant number of classes of persons injured in New South Wales. For example, upon lodgement of the Accident Notification Form payments are made to injured persons up to the sum of $5,000.00 for medical expenses. There is also the blameless accident legislation, Lifetime Care and Support Scheme and no fault coverage for children. In the Victorian scheme there are no payments made for gratuitous domestic assistance. At the present time in New South Wales, persons who are injured can receive assistance from friends or relatives with self-care and domestic chores but such assistance must be not less than 6 hours per week and for a period not less than 6 months. The rate is legislated by statute at $29.44 per hour and is CPI indexed.

If the present legislation is changed, BPC Lawyers believes there is cause for concern in ascertaining the entry level or threshold for access to common law benefits. Most objective observers of the proposed changes are concerned that the CTP scheme will not provide adequate economic loss compensation in most cases – meaning that those who cannot afford to pay for separate income protection insurance will be left ‘high and dry’.

Mr Mark Nelson, Partner of BPC Lawyers said, “more than ever, injured persons need to consult experienced practitioners in the area of personal injury litigation and seek the assistance of solicitors who have many years’ experience in personal injury claims.”

BPC Lawyers offers the services of accredited personal injury law specialists who are ready to assist members of the community.

About BPC Lawyers

BPC Lawyers is a leading Sydney legal practice with accredited motor accident compensation lawyers. The practice has its origins as a legal practice started by Barry Beilby in 1975. The business expanded significantly in 1993 when the practice merged with that of Flannery Mura & Costello, a firm specialising in Compensation law.

For more information, please visit The website

Media Contact

BPC Lawyers
Mr Mark Nelson
Address: Level 18, 201 Elizabeth St., Sydney, NSW Australia 2000
Phone: +61 (02) 8280 6900

Personal Injury Claims – which Court?

Personal Injury Claims – which Court?

free personal injury consultation

There are so many avenues in which legal redress can be sought and obtained.

There are certainly a lot of technical or procedural pitfalls which, to the untrained eye, could seriously curtain your right to claim compensation.

Compensation Law – Which Court?

General Rule

Historically, Courts have maintained the mantle of justice, charged with providing justice, as best as money can do it[1], for a loss that you have suffered to your person.[2]

However, a new dawn has awakened. What is becoming so readily apparent is the do we see the role being passed to administrative bodies like the Motor Accidents Authority (now called SIRA / State Insurance Regulatory Authority) where a motor vehicle accident is involved and WorkCover where an accident happens at work. The purpose of such a change was to make things quicker, keeping lawyers on their toes and achieve a result quickly and cheaply whilst above all, maintaining and preserving just outcomes.[3]

You may have heard of the Local, District and Supreme Court and wondered what determines which Court should hear my case? The answer is normally answered by looking at the amount you are claiming and/or the type of dispute you have.

Normally[4] for a claim for personal injuries, the Court which would be able to hear your case will depend on the amount claimed;

a/ $10,000 or less[5] – the Local Court Small Claims Division,

b/ Between $10,001 and $60,000[6] – The Local Court, General Division,

c/ Between $60,001 and $750,000[7] – The District Court, and

d/ From $751,000 – the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

There are exceptions to this general rule.[8] Take motor accident claims as an example. The District Court[9] can hear claims (which are able to go to Court in any amount), with no monetary limitation.

Compared with other personal injury cases, the sealing of $750,000 can only be extended:

[1] Robinson v Harman [1848] All ER Rep 383

[2] Paras 13–14 Dixon J in Lee Transport Co Ltd v Watson (1940) 64 CLR 1

[3] See para 7-0000 of Civil Trials Bench Book, Judicial Commission of New South Wales, June 2007

[4] See the comments of Gibson DCJ in McGlen-McLeod v Galloway (No. 2) [2012] NSWDC 11. Here Judgment was given for $700.00 in the District Court. Costs were awarded.

[5] Section 29 (1) (b) Local Court Act 2007 (NSW)

[6] Section 29 (2) Local Court Act 2007 (NSW)

[7] Section 4 District Court Act 1973 (NSW)

[8] For example, where Section 44 of the District Court Act 1973 (NSW) does confer jurisdiction, it does NOT state that such jurisdiction is exclusive and exclusionary to all other jurisdictions, which, for the kind of case or circumstance of complexity may justify initiating in another Court.

[9] See Section 44 (1) (d) of the District Court Act 1973 (NSW)

a. By consent of the parties[1], or

b. If no objection is provided from 3 months from trial.[2]

Let’s take a look at a few examples to illustrate this:

Motor Accident Claims

If you have suffered injuries because of someone’s negligence involving (e.g. driving) a car then this process will likely apply to your claim.

Generally, if the insurer admits that their insured person is at fault, most disputes will be referred to a Motor Accident Claim Assessment Service for determination. For example if you have suffered injuries in a motor accident in Sydney when walking along a pedestrian crossing and the insurer has admitted that their insurer was at fault but denies you’re injured, then that dispute (as to your pain, suffering and loss) will be determined by the Motor Accident Assessment Service.

However, if the insurer alleges that their insured did not do anything wrong or denies you claim on ‘liability’ grounds, then usually, your claim will go to the District Court of New South Wales, before a Judge for hearing.

The latter of the two is much more formal.

Small Claims – example of pitfalls

Many small debts are brought in this jurisdiction.[3]

The general rule is that the Court cannot award an unsuccessful party to pay the legal costs and disbursements of a successful party.[4] This could be a significant amount of unrecoverable expenses to which you could be stuck with! This is even so for situations where the insurer is being unreasonable for which you would normally be able to obtain an indemnity costs order.[5]

There is some relief with certain types of claims having fixed amounts of costs etc. to which can be recovered from the Defendant[6], but they are very slim picking compared to the likely costs incurred.[7]

Every case is different and it is certainly recommended that you seek legal advice as soon as practicable. To that end, our office has an incredible amount of experience in motor accident claims and would certainly encourage you to contact our office if you’re seeking an motor accident lawyer in Sydney.

3 August 2016

[1] Section 51 (2) (a) District Court Act 1973 (NSW)

[2] Section 51 (2) (b) District Court Act 1973 (NSW)

[3] For example, Scott v Burrett (2013) NSWLC 45

[4] Section 37 Local Court Act 2007 (NSW)

[5] Paras 29, 41 and 42; Tonab Investments Pty Ltd v Optima Developments Pty Ltd [2015] NSWCA 287

[6] Regulation 2.9 Local Court Rules 2009 (NSW)

[7] For examples, Schedule 1 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Regulations 2015 (NSW)