In July 2013, the South Australian State Government introduced new legislation governing injury compensation claims arising out of motor vehicle accidents. This was new law for accident victims who sustained their injuries in a road accident on or after 1 July 2013; it affects all motor vehicle drivers and passengers (car, truck, bus, motorbike etc), cyclists, and pedestrians.
The legislation is complex. When it was introduced, the Government advertised the changes as being by way of "reform" and producing a "fairer system".
As at writing this, the new legislation has been in place for five months. None of the sections of the Act have been judicially tested (tested in court) to date and in my view it is unlikely that any will be tested in the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, some things are clear from the introduction of the legislation. The most obvious point is that early indications are that approximately 95 percent of road accident injuries that constituted a claim prior to 1 July will no longer be claims; effectively removing many injured peoples' entitlements to recover compensation. At best they will recover any income loss that they suffer in the short term and have their medical bills paid.
What has happened has either been achieved by the Government by deliberately underplaying the effect of the legislation or alternatively having the legislation achieve unintended outcomes. Simply put, it seems strange to describe a new system as being fairer than the old system if benefits are denied to 95 percent of the people who otherwise would have received them.
From a practicing lawyer's perspective (and a lawyer passionate about the rights of the injured) the new legislation has put us in a very difficult position when trying to advise injured claimants as to what there entitlements may be under the legislation.
We thought this was bad legislation coming in. After 5 months we are disappointed to report that it is worse than we thought. One "target" of the legislation would appear to be soft tissue injuries, whereas injuries involving broken bones would appear more likely to give rise to a claim.
In any event, if you have suffered injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident since 1 July 2013, it's important to check your rights and entitlements. For those injured in an accident prior to 1 July 2013, your rights and entitlements to motor accident compensation fall under the old legislation.