In this podcast, BPC Lawyers Partner and Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist, Scott Hall-Johnston discusses a worrying trend of people injured in car accidents who choose to deal directly with the insurance company and compromise their legal entitlements by not seeking legal advice.
There was legislation enacted to do with the legal rights of those injured in a motor vehicle accident in New South Wales who are wanting to seek compensation. Now, with that legislation came very tight time limits that are now running out. To find out what this actually means, I’m with Beilby Poulden Costello Partner and Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist, Scott Hall-Johnston
Scott, what does this all mean?
Good afternoon, Dan.
Well, the new system has effectively been separated into two parts. There are statutory payments that operate during the first six months after a claim and then a common law claim for damages can be made, but only after two years.
Right now, we’re talking about motor vehicle accidents specifically.
We’re talking about people that have been injured in car accidents. So there is a no-fault scheme that provides payment of weekly compensation for loss of wages and payment for medical expenses during the first six months, regardless of fault. If the accident wasn’t your fault and you’ve suffered a non-minor injury, then you’re entitled to be compensated after that time.
So it is the case that there may well be people that are listening to this podcast that haven’t yet sought legal advice, who are dealing, you know, predominantly in perhaps solely with the insurance company, but are depriving themselves of getting some independent advice.
We think that’s the case. The scheme is designed so that people can interact with the insurers during the early days of the statutory payments, and that’s a really good idea. It makes sure that people get fast and efficient service and they looked after without the need of the intervention of a lawyer.
However, if you don’t seek legal advice about your claim when it comes time to making a damages, you may be short-changed.
How can a lawyer help in this regard?
Well, lawyers are able to give advice about the amount that should be claimed in a case, and they’re able to obtain the evidence that’s necessary to make sure that the right amount of money is paid. So people need to seek advice so that they know they’re getting the right outcome.
So this legislation was enacted in 2007. Does that mean that you know, for those people, that three-year time limit is starting to close in?
Exactly right. You claim for damages must be made within three years of the date of the accident and what we’re finding is a lot of people are starting to get offers from insurers directly, and some of those people are not seeking legal advice. There is a new step in the scheme which permits the government agency to approve settlements without a person seeking legal advice.
The difficulty with that scheme is that the government is only providing procedural certainty. They’re not giving advice that the offer of a settlement is fair. And we believe that if you haven’t got somebody on your side and fight for you, you may not get the right outcome. The other thing I should say, Dan, about the new system is this. If your claim for damages is settled for less than $75,000, your lawyer is not allowed to charge you.
So it’s only where you’ve got a case of more than $75,000 that you have to pay any legal costs whatsoever.
Now, at Beilby Poulden Costello you offer a free initial, no-obligation consultation?
We do. We’re happy to look at any case and give people guidance about where they should go and what they should do. And then if we’re able to help them out, we’ll do it on a no win, no fee basis.