The O’Farrell government introduced the Motor Accident Injuries Amendment Bill into the New South Wales Parliament on 9 May 2013. If enacted, this Bill will have devastating effects upon the compensation entitlements of innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents.
New threshold to loss of wages claims
At present, under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act (which has been in force since 1999), innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents are entitled to receive:
- Full compensation for their past and future loss of wages.
- Full compensation for their past and future medical and other therapeutic expenses.
- Compensation for care and assistance provided free-of-charge by family members or friends – subject to that care and assistance being rendered for over 6 months, and for over 6 hours per week.
- Compensation for pain and suffering – subject to a person’s injuries being classified as greater than 10% whole person impairment.
The Bill introduces a threshold to loss of wages claims. Full past and future loss of wages is only claimable (at a current maximum rate of $1,838.70 per week) if a person’s injuries are classified as greater than 10% whole person impairment
Otherwise, for the first 13 weeks after the accident, the person can receive 95% of his/her pre-accident earnings. After that first 13 weeks, the person then receives between 80% and 85% of his/her pre-accident earnings. However, a person cannot receive more than (currently) $1,838.70 per week. Also, a person cannot receive these compensation payments after 5 years.
The Bill also introduces a threshold to claims for treatment and therapeutic expenses. These expenses are only paid for a 5 year period unless the person is classified as having greater than 10% whole person impairment, in which case, the expenses are paid for life.
The Bill further does not allow any compensation to be payable for care and assistance provided free-of-charge by family members or friends.
The Bill still allows compensation to be paid for pain and suffering as long as the person’s whole person impairment is classified as being greater than 10%.
A further provision in the Bill prevents an innocent victim of a motor vehicle accident from seeking legal advice about his/her compensation entitlements, unless he/she is able to pursue a claim for full loss of wages and pain and suffering, because his/her whole person impairment is classified as being greater than 10%.
Otherwise, in attempting to obtain entitlements for being injured in a motor vehicle accident, the person is on his/her own, up against a well-funded insurance company with in -house lawyers.
The Bill is especially disadvantageous if the innocent victim of a motor vehicle accident is unemployed or a child. In most of these cases, compensation entitlements will be limited to payment of treatment expenses for 5 years only.
It is true to say that if this Bill is enacted, even the most careful drivers will place themselves and their families in financial peril every time they get behind the wheel of a car. Further, innocent pedestrians and cyclists who are hit by motor vehicles place themselves in the same financial peril.
The response of the government to criticism of the financial peril created by the Bill is that persons should take out income protection insurance.