Think your settlement is fair? Think again

When Matthew*, a Truck Driver, was involved in a car accident, leaving him with severe lower-back injuries, he realised he might never be able to drive again. What was once his whole life was now out of the question.

Fortunately, he was able to claim lost wages and medical bills through Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC). But when his payments were suddenly cut off, unsure of what to do next, he came to us for help.

This was an important step in not accepting the insurer’s decision, and instead making sure he was paid exactly what he was entitled to. Ultimately, it was Matthew’s way of taking his future into his own hands.

What types of compensation can you claim?

If you’ve been injured in a transport accident, you can make a claim with the statutory insurer in your state or territory.

Each state has its own claims process, although generally you’ll need to report the matter to the police and obtain a medical certificate before making the initial claim. It’s also important to be timely about making your claim. Each state’s insurer has its own time frames for when you need to lodge a claim, pursue compensation and appeal the insurer’s decisions.

In some cases, the claim might be denied. Another client I helped, Susan*, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following her car accident. The insurer denied that Susan had an injury and refused to pay any benefits or compensation.

We worked with Susan to appeal this decision, showing medical evidence of her psychological injury. The insurer reversed its decision, accepted her claim and paid medical expenses and lost wages, as well as a lump-sum payment.

This gave Susan access to ongoing treatment, allowing her the opportunity to recover.

Depending on your desired outcome, there might be a few different elements to your claim. What you’re entitled to varies in each state, but might include:

  • lost wages for the past and future
  • payment of your medical expenses
  • disability services
  • lost superannuation
  • travel to and from medical appointments
  • home and vehicle modifications
  • costs associated with job retraining
  • your legal fees, and/or
  • lump-sum compensation, which may include common law compensation.

The insurer will calculate your common law compensation based on the nature and extent of your injuries, the consequences those injuries have had on your life, the circumstances of the accident, your age, and whether the injuries have impacted on your ability to earn an income.

They will then make you an offer to consider.

How to know if the insurer's offer is fair

Put simply, you’ll need legal assistance to make sure you receive a fair amount of compensation.

Insurers often fail to recognise the full extent of a person’s claim. In Matthew’s case, his medical advice was that it was impossible for him to work again – yet the insurer cut off his payments while insisting he had the ability to work.

Through mediation, we were able to get Matthew more suitable compensation. This gives him some financial security as he navigates a future that doctors say will keep him wheelchair-bound.

Quite simply, we very rarely accept the first offer an insurer makes to one of our clients. That’s because it’s very rare for the insurer to offer the best compensation you’re entitled to without some negotiation.

It’s important to seek legal advice as early in the claims process as you can – even if you’re at fault or aren’t sure if you’re entitled to any compensation.

You deserve the best chance of a financially secure future, which, after all, is the whole point of compensation.

*Real names have been changed.

TOPIC: Road rights
RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Road accident injuries

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Sarah Kofoed

Maurice Blackburn Sunshine
Sarah Kofoed is a Principal Lawyer and Regional Office Leader in Maurice Blackburn's Sunshine office. She is a Law Institute of Victoria Personal Injury Accredited Specialist who helps clients with TAC and road accident injury compensation claims. Sarah is dedicated to fighting for the rights of her clients, and is passionate about securing just outcomes in a timely and efficient manner. She also finds a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction in working closely with her clients and in having a positive effect on the lives people who have lost the capacity to work, or enjoy life at the fullest, due to injuries sustained through road trauma. Sarah completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Melbourne in 2007, then completed a Diploma of Legal Practice at the Victorian College of Law and was admitted into practice in 2008. Sarah joined Maurice Blackburn in February 2009. Her leadership skills were quickly identified, progressing her legal career in our Dandenong and Cairns offices before returning to Dandenong and now managing our Sunshine office. Sarah’s decision to become a personal injury lawyer is found in her desire to help people, and she is particularly determined to achieve beneficial outcomes for vulnerable and disenfranchised people in society. Sarah is very technically proficient within her field and is an adept and effective negotiator. She harnesses these skills to obtain the best possible outcomes for her clients and help them overcome the challenges of the TAC and road accident injury compensation system. “The law is not always fair, and although we fight for fair outcomes for our clients, we must do so within the parameters of what can be, at times, a harsh system. It is this challenge that really pushes me to succeed on behalf of my clients – to get them the compensation to which they are entitled and which will help them to move forward with their lives,” says Sarah. “I am inspired by my clients, particularly those who face life with courage and determination despite having sustained life changing injuries and who are often facing an uncertain future.” Sarah is active in the community through various legal and business circles, and she can often be found at the firm’s stand at local community events. Sarah is currently on parental leave.  Memberships & accreditations Law Institute of Victoria Personal Injury Accredited Specialist  Law Institute of Victoria member Australian Lawyers Alliance Victorian Branch committee member Sunshine Business Association Executive Committee member iEmpower Advisory Board member Community Health and Student Engagement (CHASE) Board member Maurice Blackburn’s Sustainability Committee member Maurice Blackburn’s Diversity Committee member Awards Law Institute of Victoria Suburban Lawyer of the Year finalist 2016 ...

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