If you’ve been injured in a road accident and have started to think about the avenues to compensation, you may now be wondering about the process that takes place to pursue compensation.
As you’ll probably already be aware, your rights in this area are covered under legislation and insurance schemes administered by state transport accident authorities or insurers. While no two car accident claims are the same, it is possible to outline some general rules and advice that apply to the majority of cases.
(If you’re still trying to get your head around the basics of road accident insurance and compensation, the article I’ve been Injured in a Road Accident – What do I do now? may be helpful.)
We’ve written this guide to give you a better understanding of what you can expect as you start down the path to receive compensation.
Will I be waiting a long time to receive compensation?
Not necessarily, although the answer to that question really depends on your circumstances.
Many clients we speak with come to us under the misconception that they’ll have to wait several years before their claim is investigated and concluded. In actual fact, depending on the size and complexity of the motor vehicle accident claim, it can take as little as twelve months for a resolution to be made.
While many factors can affect the time it takes to receive compensation, there are two very important things to keep in mind, no matter what your situation might be:
- Your lawyer will aim to achieve the best possible compensation outcome for you in the shortest time possible.
- Your long-term health is more important than anything else, which leads us to the concept of medical stability.
What is medical stability and how does it affect the length of a claim?
As an example, let’s say you’ve been injured in a car accident and have been diagnosed by your medical professional with a serious leg fracture.
Before lodging any claim for compensation, your legal team needs to be confident that your leg is well on its way to recovery, and you are not likely to suffer from any further unforeseen or undiagnosed long-term problems. Reaching this point in your recovery is what we refer to as patient stability.
Waiting until this point in the recovery process to submit your claim means you can be confident that your accident compensation claim adequately reflects the severity of your injury.
It is important to wait until you have achieved medical stability before submitting your claim, but we know it can also be frustrating.
We should point out that it may be possible to obtain an interim lump sum payment to assist with financial pressure while your condition remains unstable. This can help ensure that you’re not out of pocket for any ongoing expenses. It’s important to note, however, that this type of payment is at the state authority or insurers discretion.
How does the compensation process begin?
There are many ways the compensation process may begin, and in most cases, it will start once you seek legal advice.
If your injuries aren’t serious enough for you to require hospital admission, many people begin the process informally by conducting their own research online. While doing this, you may find a car accident lawyer or law firm online or even be introduced to a lawyer through family, friends or a colleague referral.
- If your car accident does require you to spend some time in hospital or a medical facility, you’ll often find that you’re introduced to a social worker or patient liaison officer who will process the insurance authority paper work, making the state authority or insurer aware that an accident has taken place.
- Often a medical professional (or, again, a family member or friend) will recommend you speak to a lawyer to help assist you with your compensation claim. Remember that the sooner you seek legal advice the better; as trying to remember specific details or tracking down old records many months or years after an incident has occurred can be difficult and inconvenient.
- Once you get in touch with a lawyer, they will ask you to tell your side of the story in as much detail as possible. You’ll probably hear questions such as:
- How did it happen?
- What were the circumstances leading up to the accident?
- Was anyone involved under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
- What’s the status of your injury?
- Are you able to work? and so on.
- The lawyer may also ask you about police reports, ambulance reports, witness statements and other important documents that will help you with your claim. If liability (fault) is highly contested, a lawyer might seek an expert report – for example, call on the advice of a traffic engineer to add weight to your case.
- After this initial consultation, the lawyer will provide you with considered advice and recommendations based on your circumstances. This may include estimations of what you may be entitled to; what you should claim for medical costs, a lump sum or both; an estimated timeline of the compensation process, and other useful advice. At this point, you will have the opportunity to give instructions to your lawyer regarding how you would like to proceed.
Will I need to go to court?
Depending on the nature of the claim and the circumstances of your accident, it’s possible that you may need to go to Court to prove your claim, although in most cases this may be avoided.
The main thing to remember is that the team at Slater and Gordon will do everything they can to reach a reasonable outcome and avoid you having to take your case to Court. If your claim is denied Slater and Gordon will advise you on the strength of your claim prior to you deciding whether you should proceed to Court.
If you - or someone you love - has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, simply get in touch online or call us on 1800 555 777.