Personal injury in legal terms is a general physical and/or psychological damages to an individual that are the fault of another responsible party, be it the driver of another car, an individual, of the owner or manager of a public space.
Due to the broad nature of personal injuries they are subdivided into smaller legal categories:
- Work-related injuries or injuries resulting from commuting to work
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Injuries resulting from crime/assault
- Injuries resulting from the use of public spaces e.g. shopping centres
- Injuries arising from product defects
Due to the variety in personal injuries and the fact that each State or Territory in Australia has different requirements from proving a claim and doling compensation it is recommended that before you go out and pursue your claim you first consult with a specialised lawyer.
The Civil Liability Act, established in 2003, places upper limits on the maximum amount of compensation that will be awarded for the different aspects of your claim, such as claiming for non-monetary or punitive damages, e.g. psychological trauma or loss of quality of life.
There is also a time limit over which you can claim against the responsible party. However, the time limits vary from case to case and are dependent on factors such as, the necessity or urgency to claim based on medical issues. For this reason, you should open your claim as soon after your injury as you can.
Who can claim?
Any person who has been injured within Australia, as the result of another party’s negligence can claim for compensation.
This includes being injured in a motor vehicle accident by a WA licensed vehicle or if you are a dependent of the individual who was injured. Any form of personal injury can be claimed for, provided it can be shown that the cause was directly due to another's negligence or action. Instances of criminal assaults or injury arising from criminal action, your claim will be against particular parties or persons. For example, if a person unlawfully enters your house and assaults you, you can claim for the subsequent medical fees incurred as well as open a case of criminal assault.
What can I claim for?
- Past and future medical expenses arising from your injuries.
- Past and future loss of earnings
- Funeral costs
- Non-monetary damages
- Material damages
How do I claim?
The claims process does not happen overnight. It can take from 6 to 12 months before you will be compensated. So be patient. The best way to initiate the claims process is to begin by consulting a specialist personal injury lawyer to verify the validity of your claim. Most law firms offer a free first consultation, during which your case will be determined and you will be advised on how to proceed. Your lawyer will go through the arduous process of collecting all the documents, medical reports and statements on your behalf and make sure that your claim is lodged through the proper channels.
You do not necessarily need to use a lawyer to lodge a claim against a party. For example, in the case of motor vehicle accidents, you can process your case directly through the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Division.
How is a claim proven?
Proving a claim against a negligent party is not a simple process and may require the advice and guidance of a solicitor that is specialised in personal injury claims. The majority of firms offer a free first consultation where the merits of your claim will be assessed. Your lawyer will gather all the appropriate documents and affidavits to lodge a successful claim.
Note that in the case of motor vehicle accidents and work-related injuries, negligence does not need to be proven.
Records and documents you may be required to provide:
- - Medical report from a physician accepted by the insurance companies involved, describing the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident and the required treatment.
- - Financial records (receipts and invoices) of medical treatment received.
- - Estimates of costs of future medical treatment that are deemed necessary
- - Financial records and reports indicating your loss of earnings and/or inability to perform your job on a temporary or permanent basis.
- - A psychological report describing any trauma of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the accident.
- - Police reports lodged by the parties involved.
- -Insurance accredited assessment of the value of material damages suffered by you (i.e. damage to your car, road, fences, pavement etc.).
What will reduce the value of your claim?
Even if the accident was not your fault at all, if you did not take appropriate responsibility for yourself or others with you were in your duty of care, it may be determined that your negligence worsened the injuries incurred as a result of the accident.
The value of your claim is also limited by the economic situation of the person you are claiming against. This is particularly important if he/she does not have insurance, as you will then be calming directly from his/her pocket. However, the person might not be able to afford to pay compensation or cover it by selling their assets and this will reduce the amount you are compensated by.
Who will I claim from?
Depending on what personal injuries you are claiming for, you will variably claim from either your insurance, or the party responsible for your injuries, or both.
If your claim is processed via your insurance, they will need the same documents you would provide a lawyer with. If the accident was not your fault at all, then your insurance will claim from the other party’s insurance. If that party does not have insurance then you will have to seek legal action against them directly and if successful they will have to pay the compensation from their own money. If you are partly/wholly to blame for the accident, some of the damage may be covered by your insurance, but you will probably be expected to pay an excess fee.