What happens when motorists and animals are in a car accident?

In rural NSW there all too frequently are accidents  involving  cars, trucks, and motorcycles colliding with animals.

Blameless accidents

It was a fault based system and as an animal cannot be sued, provisions of the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 were enacted to protect people not at fault to recover compensation for their injuries. These provisions were called ‘blameless accidents’. The situation commonly arising when another motorist may have a heart attack or stroke losing control of their vehicle and causing a motor vehicle accident or whereby when in the aforementioned case above, a Kangaroo collides with a motorcyclist causing the subject motor vehicle accident.

There are news reports on 24 April 2018 that a motorcyclist was fatally injured in the urban area of Claremont Meadows, Sydney after colliding with a kangaroo. Although no other details are known at this stage, the Whitfield case above involved a motorcyclist and kangaroo collision on 12 August 2011.

In this case, the plaintiff’s legal team brought a case that the plaintiff should recover compensation due to the provisions of a blameless accident.

The NSW Court of Appeal were satisfied based on the evidence before it that the kangaroo hit the motorcyclist causing the accident. The question being though whether this was a ‘blameless accident’. It was held there was no negligence on behalf of the motorcycle rider or the owner of the motorcycle (the bicycle was not ridden by the owner), and based on the specific wording of Section 7B though a blameless accident must involve a causative use or operation by the owner or driver (or both) but no fault in that use or operation. Essentially it was held the operation and riding of the motorcycle was a background fact to the collision and could not be considered a blameless accident.

The Court of Appeal found that there was no causally related use or operation of the motorcycle by its owner that caused the accident and meant the writer’s claim had to fail. It could be seen as an artificial and perhaps harsh interpretation of the blameless accident laws, however most cases will generally depend upon the specific facts and circumstances.

Get in touch with us

If you have been involved and injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should contact our team of lawyers on 13 43 63 to discuss the accident and whether you have a claim, particularly in light of the recent changes to the Motor Accident Compensation Scheme, effective as at 1 December 2017.