Personal injury 101: A simple guide to understanding complex law
Many Australians are not aware of personal injury law, or in many cases, individuals are oblivious to the fact that they are entitled to make a claim, writes Australian Accident Helpline founder Liam Millner.
We constantly meet people who cannot live their life to the fullest as a result of injuries (mental or physical) sustained at the hands of another, and continue to suffer because they do not know the laws that support them.
Within a 12-month period, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 million Australians aged 15 years or over experience a personal injury problem, with negative impact ranging from income loss or financial strain, stress-related illness, relationship breakdown and having to move home.
What is personal injury?
Personal injury is defined as general physical and/or psychological damages to an individual that are the fault/s of another responsible party, be it a driver of another car, an individual, employer or the owner or manager of a public space.
It is important to remember that claims can be psychological in nature or related to defamation of character or reputation because of wrongdoing or negligence.
How long do personal injury cases take to resolve?
An estimated 80 percent of claims are settled before legal proceedings commence, in which instance, resolution can be a matter of months. However, if the claim is in dispute and either the insurer or claimant has unreasonable expectations, a judge would need to preside over the case which means a case may be drawn out over many months, or even years.
What evidence do you need to make a claim?
Proving a claim is not a simple process and it is advisable to enlist the services of a professional lawyer specialising in personal injury claims to ensure you can provide the following:
* Evidence of injury, negligence and/or damage suffered;
* For motor vehicle accidents or work-related injuries, an individual may need to provide medical reports, financial records, estimated costs of future medical treatment, reports indicating future loss of income, a psychological report describing any trauma or PTSD, police records and/or an insurance assessment of the value of any material damages sustained.
How much can an individual claim in compensation?
The amount entitled to a claim is dependent on several factors: the severity of the injury, how many days a person is off work, the impact of future earnings and the economic situation of the company found liable.
Claims can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. A good starting point is the Australian Accident Helpline injury claims calculator that gives claimants an estimate of entitlements due.
The facts about claiming personal injury damages against an employer
Many Australians may not realise that workplace claims extend far beyond the office; in fact, you may be eligible for a claim provided you were engaged in any work-related activity. Unbeknownst to most, this includes driving to and from work (except in WA) or an injury that occured during a meeting offsite or away from your workplace.
A claim must be lodged as soon as possible, but generally, the time limit to issue legal proceedings is three years from the date of injury. Each state has its own requirements and procedures and public servants fall into a separate category altogether, therefore it’s important to know that there is no blanket approach or solution and each case is unique.
Individuals should be able to make up their own mind on whether on not they wish to pursue a personal injury claim, but they can’t do that if they don’t have access to resources or aren’t aware of their rights when it comes to claiming compensation.
Once educated, people are far more inclined to pick up the phone and speak to someone about their accident and injuries. For some, compensation can play an incredibly valuable role and potentially avoid any adverse knock-on effects on broader health, social and economic circumstances.
Liam Millner is the founder of claims company Australian Accident Helpline and previously worked in the Personal Industry sector in the UK for a number of years.