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2021… a tragic year on Queensland roads: ensure your vehicle insurance coverage is right for you

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Queensland is currently the state with the most lives lost on the roads this year. The death tolls will no doubt continue to rise with borders reopening in December and the increase in traffic as people travel over the Christmas period.  Attwood Marshall Lawyers Compensation Law Associate, Tina Davis, discusses Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance and what to do if you make a CTP claim after being involved in a motor vehicle accident, and your claim is denied.

Statistics for 2021: Too many lives lost on our roads

The statistics of road deaths in Australia in 2021 are particularly horrifying.  As at the end of September this year Queensland had the highest number of lives lost on the road at 207.  Followed by New South Wales, 203, Victoria, 174, Western Australia, 123, South Australia, 72, Tasmania, 29, Northern Territory, 26 and lastly ACT with 9 deaths.

From 1 January to 31 October 2021, there were 239 fatalities as a result of crashes within Queensland, which is 16 fatalities (or 7.2%) more than the same period for the previous year and 34 fatalities (or 16.6%) more than the previous five-year average for the same period.

Main causes of road accidents

The top 5 causes of motor vehicle accidents in Australia are intoxication, speeding, distractions, recklessness and accidents that happen as a result of driving in bad weather.  Some other common causes are running intersections, night driving and inexperienced/teenage drivers.

Despite Covid lockdowns keeping motorists off the road for short periods of time throughout the year, the increase in lives lost, in comparison to previous years, may be caused by an increase in dangerous behaviors such as high-range drink driving and high-range speeding.

Regardless of the cause of a motor vehicle accident, if you find yourself or a loved one injured in a motor vehicle accident as a result of someone else’s negligence then it is imperative you know what to do next.

Understanding car insurance

If you own and operate a private motor vehicle in Australia, there are four main types of general motor vehicle insurance you need to be aware of:

Compulsory Third Party (CTP) – which is mandatory in each state and territory. In some states it’s known as Compulsory Third Party Insurance (CTP). In New South Wales it’s called a Green Slip. In Victoria it is known as the Transport Accident Charge. No matter what it is named, Compulsory Third Party Insurance protects any person that you might injure while you are driving, including pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. Each jurisdiction’s scheme has different rules, operates in a different way and covers different things. It is not an alternative to taking out a motor vehicle policy to cover your financial liabilities. This type of insurance does not cover you for damage to your vehicle, other vehicles or property, or theft of your vehicle or its contents.  This form of insurance does not cover your legal liability other than in respect of personal injuries caused to another person while you are driving.

Comprehensive Cover – This type of insurance covers damage to your own vehicle and the other person’s property, as well as theft and some other risks, plus legal costs.  It covers the repair or replacement of your vehicle for events including theft, collision, fire, malicious damage and weather-related damage.

It can also cover the repair and replacement of any other vehicles that are damaged by your vehicle in an accident, and damage to property.  You would usually choose comprehensive insurance if your car is in good condition. If your car is not in a good state of repair, or if it has issues such as significant rust or unrepaired damage, insurers might not cover you.

Comprehensive car insurance is highly competitive, with companies offering a wide range of inclusions and optional extras, ranging from windscreen protection to the use of hire cars in the event your vehicle must undergo repairs after being involved in an accident.

Third Party Property This kind of insurance covers damage to other people’s property and legal costs, but not damage to your own vehicle. 

You usually take out this type of cover if you have a low-value vehicle, so that you’re not left financially exposed to having to pay for the damage your car might do to a more valuable vehicle or other property that belongs to someone else.

Some insurers will also cover a specified amount of damage caused to your vehicle if you are in a collision with an uninsured driver.

Third Party Fire and Theft –This insurance offers the protection of third-party property policies, as well as additional fire and theft protection for your vehicle up to a specified limit.

How to make a claim if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident

If you or a family member is injured in a motor vehicle crash and you wish to lodge a CTP insurance claim there are some simple steps you can follow.

First you must report the crash to the police, making sure to note down the police reference number (QP number in QLD) for your report, as you will need to include it in the claim form.  If the crash is not reported at the time it takes place then you can later complete a Report of Traffic Incident to Police Form and take it into a police station.

The next step is ensuring you are aware of and understand the timeframes for lodgment of your Notice of Claim under the legislation.  If you lodge a claim outside of the stipulated timeframes, then you may not be entitled to proceed with your claim at all. Different time limitations apply if you are under 18 years old at the time of the accident. Generally speaking, you have between 6-9 months from the date of the accident to prepare and serve your claim form, but this can be extended for up to three years, if there is a reasonable excuse for the delay. It is best to get advice as soon as possible after you have an accident so that you don’t miss any time limits for your claim.

You must obtain the registration number of the vehicle that caused the accident, as well as any other vehicles that were involved.  If the vehicle at fault is registered in Queensland, you can find their CTP insurer online.  In the instance where the vehicle responsible for the accident is registered in another state you will need to contact the CTP regulator for that state.  If the vehicle cannot be identified or is not in fact registered, meaning it is not insured, you can lodge your claim against the Nominal Defendant.  This follows a similar process though different times frames are applicable.

Then you need to complete your claim form, providing as much information as possible to avoid any delays with your claim.  You must provide an honest account of the accident, the injury that resulted from it and the impact of the injury.  Providing misleading information to your insurer is CTP fraud and could result in prosecution against you. For non-fatal injuries you can use an online claim form or a PDF claim form.  If you are making a CTP claim as a loved one of someone who was fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident, you must use a PDF claim form.

You will be required to supply supporting documentation including a medical certificate, claimant certificate, proof of identity and a law practice certificate if you have engaged a lawyer to act on your behalf and assist you with your claim.

Once you have completed all the steps, you then lodge your claim form to the CTP insurer of the at-fault vehicle. This can be done online through the Queensland CTP claim portal. Once you have lodged the claim form, the CTP Insurer is obliged to confirm compliance within 14 days in QLD. Once this is done, the CTP Insurer is obliged to participate in and pay for your reasonable treatment and rehabilitation expenses. It is very important to serve your claim form as soon as possible for this reason alone! This is effectively similar to having private health cover rather than receiving treatment under the public system. Having your claim form served and the insurance company paying for your treatment and medication not only gets you the treatment you need, but also saves you money. So, don’t delay and get that claim form completed, signed and lodged! We can help you with that process – we do them every day.

What to do if your claim is denied – don’t give up!

Insurance companies, such as Allianz and Suncorp, yield greatly from CTP insurance.  The lucrative market has an average profit margin of approximately 19% annually. However, some CTP insurers employ tactics to deny, delay or minimize payouts to victims of accidents. These are people who have genuine claims and have suffered significantly as a result of the accident they were involved in.

There are multiple examples of injured claimants having their claims drawn out or being refused compensation based on false or misleading information provided by insurers. 

Some of the tactics insurers use include asking for a recorded statement detailing accident and injuries in order to use a lack of medical or legal knowledge against you.  They may also dispute medical claims to lower payments or delay your treatment. Fortunately, an experienced compensation lawyer can assist you in identifying alternative payment methods for your medical bills.  In some cases, insurance companies may partially or fully deny liability and may even advise you not to seek legal advice.

It is imperative to always seek the advice of a reputable personal injury lawyer when faced with an issue relating to a CTP claim. If you claim is denied, it is not necessarily the end of the line.  You have several options following refusal of a claim.

Risky road behaviour

Although the roads may be quieter as border restrictions are still in place, we have seen a spike in concerning behaviour play out on our roads. The Gold Coast is currently experiencing a disturbing spike in serious youth crime and car theft.

In recent news, shocking video was released showing a car being driven dangerously at high speed on the M1 after it was stolen. These stories are becoming all too common with The Gold Coast Bulletin reporting that this incident was one of 15 vehicles stolen in the Palm Beach area within a two-week period.

So, what happens if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time and injured by a car that has been stolen?

If it is deemed that the driver of a stolen vehicle is at fault, which is likely the case if they’re taking the car for a joy ride and driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol! Then you may still be able to make a claim for compensation for the injuries you have sustained against the CTP insurer of the vehicle, or alternatively, with the Nominal Defendant if the vehicle is unidentified or uninsured.

Be aware that stricter time frames apply in these cases.  A Notice of Claim form should be given to the Nominal Defendant within 3 months of the date of the accident, however it may be given up to 9 months from the date of accident if accompanied by an explanation of the delay.  Once the 9-month time limit has expired, and no notice has been given, then your claim is statute barred (ie. you lose your right to claim).

In pursuing a claim against the Nominal Defendant, proper search and inquiry has to be made to identify the vehicle at fault. It is therefore important that you try to obtain as much information as possible, including the vehicle’s registration number, colour, make, and model. Also, obtain any witness details, so statements can be taken.  Dashcam and CCTV footage are also valuable.

In cases involving uninsured vehicles, the Nominal Defendant may recover as a debt from the owner or driver of the motor vehicle or both, any costs reasonably incurred on the claim for personal injuries. This includes the settlement amount paid and the cost of investigating/defending the action.

The laws vary from state to state which is why it is imperative to obtain legal advice at the earliest opportunity to understand your rights to compensation and to get your claim underway.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping you get the treatment and support you need after sustaining an injury

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and need to make a CTP claim or are having an issue with a current claim, you should seek trusted legal advice from an experienced compensation lawyer.  At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, our team are well-versed at assisting with motor vehicle accident claims and we take on all compensation claims on a No Win, No Fee basis. This means that you can discuss your matter with a compensation lawyer, find out where you stand, and get your claim underway quickly with no costs upfront.

As our roads start to get busier leading into the festive season, please take care and keep safe. We can all do our bit to try to reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents happening including being aware of other drivers, avoiding distractions and putting your mobile phone away, resting and avoiding driving when tired, and planning ahead so that you do not have to rush to get to your destination.

If you would like advice about a motor vehicle accident or CTP claim, please contact our Compensation Law Department Manager, Kelli Costin, on direct line 07 5506 8220, email kcostin@attwoodmarshall.com.au or call 1800 621 071 any time to get trusted advice.

Our experienced team are available at any of our conveniently located offices at Robina Town Centre, Coolangatta, Kingscliff, Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne.

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Tina Davis Compensation Law Associate Attwood Marshall Lawyers

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