Author: Theresa Armstrong, Director and Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury
It is a cruel fact that at some point in a road users life, be it motor vehicle drivers, pedestrians or cyclists, you may find yourself injured as a result of a road accident. Recent changes to the Motor Accident Compensation Act mean that if you have been involved in a motor accident in which no one is at fault, you have a right to a claim for compensation.
Through the payment of compulsory green slip insurance, should the driver of a motor vehicle involved in a road accident cause injury to another, the government allows that injured person, who is NOT AT FAULT for the accident, to recover compensation for their losses in accordance with a statutory scheme regulated in accordance with the – Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 (“MACA”).
The “Sophie Delezio” change
In 2006 an amendment to the scheme and law were introduced following the media coverage of a little girl, Sophie Delezio, who was seriously injured when a car lost control and careered into her day care centre striking her. The accident caused her serious, permanent and life changing injuries. At the time of her accident Sophie was not entitled to claim compensation under the CTP scheme because she could not prove fault on the part of the driver of the vehicle that struck her. The reason being that the driver had a heart-attack whilst driving and the Court held that the accident could not have been avoided and the driver not at blame.
The government responded to this accident by introducing coverage for “blameless accidents”. The law defines a blameless accident as “a motor accident not caused by the fault of the owner or driver of any motor vehicle”. This change meant that situations like Sophie’s would now be covered, and pedestrians and cyclists, hit by motor vehicles could also now claim compensation.
The “Connaughton” change
Initially it was thought that a blameless accident only covered situations involving an unforeseen event like the driver having a heart attack or being stung by a bee. However, in 2015
a decision of the Supreme Court of NSW in the case of ‘Connaughton v Pacific Rail Engineering Pty Ltd’ opened an opportunity for blameless drivers to make a claim for injuries suffered in a single vehicle accident. In this situation, a driver of a motor vehicle was traveling on a road way when, unexpectedly, a tree fell on the roof of the truck cabin. However, in these situations a blameless driver would have to justify how he/she was essentially and entirely “blameless”. The driver must prove there was no evidence to suggest there was an act, omission or involuntary act that contributed to the cause of the accident.
Accidents involving only a single party are likely to be considered blameless accidents where the act of driving is considered to be ‘a mere background fact’. The interpretation applied by the trial judge in this case opens up the blameless accident provisions to cover drivers in single vehicle accidents with inanimate objects where no third party is involved, and the driver perceives a risk but has no opportunity to react to such risk.
Case Study 1
The driver was riding a motorcycle on a country highway when a large kangaroo leaped onto him and knocked him off his motorcycle. The court held this was a blameless accident.
Case Study 2
The driver of the motor vehicle encounters a cat darting across the road in front of him. The driver reacts by swerving his vehicle to avoid hitting the cat and in doing so collides with a tree. This situation is caught by s 7E of the blameless accident provisions and would NOT be considered a blameless accident.
If you have had an accident:
It’s important that you do the following as soon as possible:-
• Obtain the registration details of the vehicle(s) involved.
• Obtain as much evidence of the accident as possible – take photos or video, of the scene and any damage done.
• Obtain the details of any witnesses.
• Obtain the details of the driver – take a photo of their drivers licence.
• Report the accident to the NSW Police Service, within 28 days.
• Seek appropriate medical treatment – notify your GP.
• Seek legal advice about whether you have a claim – strict time limits apply in relation to the lodgement of claims for compensation.
Veritas Law Firm specialises in motor vehicle accident claims and offers all persons injured in a motor vehicle accident with a right to claim, a No Win No Fee legal service. Speak to a specialist today on 131 LAW (529).
About the Author: Theresa Armstrong is the Director of Veritas Law Firm and Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law. Theresa delivers ground-breaking legal representation to individuals’ suffering the effects of work accidents, motor vehicle accidents, public liability incidents and medical negligence claims.