On 1 July 2013 significant reform was brought into law by the South Australian Government in relation to how entitlements for people injured in a motor vehicle accident are assessed.

As a guide the recently introduced scheme is based on the Queensland model, which has been operating since 2003. This means an application of the Injury Scale Value (“ISV”) table. The ISV table lists 157 injuries and assigns them a numeric value range based on the severity of that type of injury.

Once an injury or injuries have been established and designated an item number, the Court must then, using the ISV table, assign that injury a numeric number value within the value range of that injury. For example, item no. 82 – Moderate cervical spine injury – soft tissue injury has an ISV range of 6 to 11.

Unlike the Queensland model, South Australia’s model has implemented a threshold of 11 points that will need to be met before a person becomes eligible to receive compensation for pain and suffering. To put that in to context, a “moderate lung injury” has an ISV range of 6 to 11, meaning that only injures of this nature in the most severe range i.e. 11 would satisfy the threshold for damages.

Below are some examples of injuries that would not satisfy the threshold requirement:

Item no. 21 – Moderate facial scarring ISV range 6-10;

Item no. 28 – Moderate eye injury ISV range 6-10; and

Item no. 47 – Loss of 1 testicle ISV range 2 – 11.

As illustrated above, the threshold could be described as harsh and will most certainly preclude the majority of victims involved in motor accidents, with significant and potentially long term injuries, from claiming compensation for pain and suffering.

Another feature to the new scheme is the assessment of damages for economic loss, this being any loss of income as a result of injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident. Under the new scheme, any economic loss awarded will be paid at only 80% of the otherwise assessed value of the claim. There is also a threshold in place before a claimant can claim damages for future economic loss, but unlike a claim for pain and suffering, the new law requires a numeric ISV at least 7 before being eligible for any compensation under this head of damage. It is clear that the above changes have caused a significant loss to motor accident victims’ rights.

Although the changes are fairly recent, the true impact is yet to be seen. The Law Society and the SA Bar Association have strongly opposed these amendments and will continue to lobby to the Government to restore fair and reasonable compensation to motor accident victims.

What can you do in order to protect what rights you may have under the new scheme?

It is very important that all injuries sustained as a result of a motor accident are reported to your general practitioner as soon as practicable, no matter how minor or insignificant the injury may seem. If you fail to report injuries at this initial stage it may result in a substantial reduction in any overall damages awarded.

With respect to psychological injuries arising from an accident, it is also important that these are immediately noted to your treating medical provider from the onset.

Changes to the scheme, although only recently implemented, will overall result in many motor accident victims not being eligible for compensation. Therefore it is important that following the above recommendations you seek legal advice regarding any entitlements you may have under the new scheme.

We invite you to contact our office on 08 8213 1000 regarding any questions or queries you may have in relation to the reforms or for advice in relation to motor vehicle accident compensation entitlements.