It is not surprising that most people are unaware of their rights when it comes to suing for damages for personal injuries in cases where the accident is caused by an unidentified vehicle, or an unregistered vehicle or in circumstances where you are simply unable to identify the registration number of the vehicle or identity of the driver involved. Some common examples of this are where vehicles blind other cars with their lights on high beam or where large trucks force you off the road without even knowing that they have been involved in an accident.
The other classic hit and run accident is where a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle that subsequently leaves the scene and there are no witnesses or ways of identifying the driver. In all of these situations the pedestrian or driver or passenger of the cars that are not at fault can bring a claim against the nominal defendant. The nominal defendant is a creature of statute and is set up to compensate people who are injured by the wrongful acts of unidentified parties. When we pay our registration for our cars you may notice that there is a small amount in the list of charges to cover nominal defendant claims (currently $11.00). As well as covering any damages for injuries that may be caused by our own vehicle, the nominal defendant fund covers these types of claims where the vehicle is unidentified and the insurer unknown.
It also covers claims where a vehicle involved is unregistered and therefore uninsured. The nominal defendant fund will step in and payout the damages to the injured party but may then recover any monies paid out to the injured parties from the person who was driving the unregistered vehicle. This is why it is very important to pay your registration on time and ensure that anyone driving the vehicle is covered in the event that it is involved in an accident and parties suffer injuries as a result of the negligence of the driver of the car.
Naturally enough, there are some fairly strict time limits and preconditions of bringing a claim against the nominal defendant. In Queensland, a claim form must be lodged within 3 months of the date of the accident and no later than 9 months from the date of the accident. If you do not lodge a claim form within the 9 month timeframe, your claim in Queensland against the nominal defendant expires and there is no way that it can be extended. You must also report the matter to the police and carry out due search and enquiry.
In New South Wales you have 6 months from the date of the accident to lodge the claim with the nominal defendant. Although there is no absolute time limit in relation to claims in New South Wales, nominal defendant claims are viewed fairly strictly and if you bring a claim outside the 6 month time period for lodging a claim form, you must provide a full and satisfactory explanation for the delay.
The claims against the nominal defendant are considered very carefully by the nominated nominal defendant insurer. As you can imagine, there have been many matters where injured parties have made up a story about how their accident occurred in order to bring a claim under this provision. There have been cases where drivers have concocted stories of other drivers forcing them off the road or using their high beam inappropriately. However, it is our experience that many people do not realise that they do have a claim against the nominal defendant and simply are ignorant of claims that they may well be able to bring for injuries that they have suffered.
Please call Department Manager Kelli Costin on direct line 07 5506 8220, email firstname.lastname@example.org or freecall 1800 621 071.