For most Queenslanders, paying our motor vehicle registration usually involves reluctance in having to fork out a reasonably substantial amount of money to ensure that we can legally drive on Queensland roads.
We don’t necessarily think twice about the importance of CTP insurance until we are unlucky enough to be involved in a motor vehicle accident.
At that point, we try and think rationally at the scene of the accident getting the details of the driver at fault including the registration number and contact details etc.
If injuries have been sustained, we consult personal injury solicitors to act on our behalf. This is primarily to ensure that our rights regarding the provision of rehabilitation (for example physiotherapy) are protected, and furthermore that we are entitled to obtain compensation through a common law claim against the CTP insurer of the vehicle at fault. This for many of us is an all too familiar process.
But what happens if the vehicle at fault is either unregistered, or unidentified? Or if for example the vehicle at fault fails to stop at the scene of the accident?
In those circumstances, the above outcome on the face of it seems a little more complicated to achieve.
As well as paying a portion of the registration fee so that we can legally drive our vehicles in Queensland - a portion of the total registration fee is also paid to the government body known as the Nominal Defendant.
The Nominal Defendant is a statutory body established by the Motor Accident insurance Act 1994, which has been created to effectively steps into the shoes of a non-existent CTP insurer
Ordinarily there is a requirement under the Motor Accident insurance Act that the CTP insurer be served with a Notice of Accident Claim form within 9 months of the date of accident, or if the injuries are not immediately apparent – within 9 months from the first appearance of symptoms of the injury. If the Notice is not given within that time period, a ‘reasonable excuse for delay’ must be given to the CTP insurer. Once this is done however, the CTP claim can proceed relatively uninhibited.
However, if the accident involves an unregistered or unidentified vehicle the initial Notice must be given to the Nominal Defendant within 3 months after the motor vehicle accident. Furthermore, if the injured person fails to provide the Notice to the Nominal Defendant within 9 months of the accident, any potential claim against the Nominal Defendant is barred and cannot proceed at all.
An excellent example of the importance of the Nominal Defendant in motor vehicle accidents in Queensland is demonstrated by the case of Mr. Manaaki Shortland. Mr. Shortland sustained severe injuries in a hit and run accident and recently received $7.1 million in compensation in a case against the nominal defendant.
When the accident occurred on Valentine’s Day 2008, the vehicle at fault left the scene of the accident leaving Mr. Shortland with few legal rights against both the driver at fault and the CTP insurer of the vehicle at fault. Investigators were unable to identify or track down neither the driver, nor the vehicle at fault.
Sadly, Mr. Shortland’s injuries were extensive. So much so that he now requires around-the-clock care. He spent 7 months in the Princess Alexandra Hospital, immediately following the accident followed by a year in a rehabilitation centre. It was only then that his family could safely bring him home in light of the serious nature of his injuries.
It is sad situations such as these that the Queensland CTP insurance scheme provides an alternate ‘insurer’ – the Nominal Defendant. Prior to being able to seek payment of rehabilitation or other necessary treatment from this alternate insurer, the injured person (or rather their lawyers) must be able to demonstrate to the nominal defendant that ‘due search and enquiry’ has been performed.
That’s to say, that various steps have been performed to locate the vehicle at fault. This might include a road traffic investigation conducted by police, a call for witnesses by placing an advertisement in a newspaper, and producing statutory declarations of witnesses such that it was impossible to obtain the registration number of the vehicle at fault at the accident scene for whatever reason.
Once ‘due search and enquiry’ has been performed and the nominal defendant has been satisfied of the above, the injured person has the same access to rehabilitation and treatment as any other injured person in CTP accidents in Queensland.
In fact, had it not been for this avenue of compensation, Mr. Shortland and his family may have faced in a vastly different predicament.
In addition to providing a surety that immediate care and treatment can be provided in the short term - without the scheme, Mr. Shortland would have had next to no opportunity to recover the level of compensation required to ensure the level of care needed long term for his injuries.
What does this mean for you should you be involved in a motor vehicle accident on Queensland’s roads?
In practical terms, if a motor vehicle accident occurs, and for whatever reason the details of the vehicle at fault are not obtained, it is vital that advice be obtained as soon as possible from a personal injuries lawyer who specializes in claims of this nature. Steps need to be taken as soon as possible to identify the vehicle at fault, and inform the appropriate insurer.
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that there is an avenue available for injured persons to seek immediate treatment and pursue compensation where the vehicle at fault is unidentified or unregistered.
All is most certainly not lost. Perhaps some small comfort when it comes to registration renewal time.
Article written by Carl Hughes - Associate Gouldson Legal.
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