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.

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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 ...

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