Who am I really suing with my car accident claim?

You’ve had a car accident, and you were in no way at fault. Any injuries incurred have been attended to and, if you’re going to be out of pocket, you’ve probably already been in touch with your insurer about claiming compensation.

But who is it that you should be making the claim against? Who is it that you’re really suing after a car accident – the insurance company, the other driver or, if the condition of the road caused the accident, is it the local council?

Your lawyer can advise you, but the short answer is that it depends on who or what caused the accident, and whether anyone was injured.

We’ve outlined a few common scenarios so that you know where to turn to, should you ever find yourself in this situation.

How to claim compensation after a car accident

If you were injured and the driver of another vehicle was at fault, your auto accident claim is against the owner or driver of that vehicle. The claim will be handled by the compulsory third party (CTP or greenslip) insurer of that vehicle. Compensation payments come from the fund that the insurance company has put aside to collect the premiums paid by those who have insured with them.

The owner of the vehicle at fault will find that their CTP insurance premium increases following the accident, so in effect, they will be directly contributing to the payout.

When the at-fault driver can’t be identified – usually after a ‘hit and run’ – or the vehicle at fault is unregistered (and therefore uninsured), you should talk to a lawyer, as you may be able to make a claim against the ‘nominal defendant’, which is a government body acting as the CTP insurer of the vehicle at fault.

If the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, or if your injuries are very serious or even catastrophic and ongoing treatment will be very expensive, one option may be to sue the person responsible for ‘common law damages’. You will need legal help to do this. If you are successful, the person who was negligent will bear the cost.

Changes to CTP claims coming soon

It’s important to note that the CTP compensation laws are changing soon in New South Wales. Compensation claims will be available to everyone injured in car accidents, including the drivers at fault.

Weekly payments will be available for the first six months after the accident. Lump sum payment claims may also be made to those who are seriously injured and not at fault for the accident. Read more about the CTP law changes here.

When no-one was at fault

So-called ‘blameless accidents’ can happen if a driver was suddenly disabled, for example, they could have suffered a heart attack or a stroke while behind the wheel. ‘Blameless accidents’ can also result from a sudden or unexpected mechanical failure. A car’s brakes might fail, or there could be an unavoidable collision with an animal on the road.

In cases like these, you can still make a CTP claim (if certain conditions are met) against the driver or owner of the vehicle that caused the accident.

However, there are some circumstances when you may not be able to make a claim. It’s best to call a lawyer experienced in this area to find out where you stand.

When poor road conditions caused the accident

Accidents can sometimes happen when public roads aren’t adequately maintained. For example, a bridge could collapse while you’re crossing it with no warning of the hazard. You may have a case to sue the entity responsible for the road, such as the local council.

Damages for negligence can be claimed within six years of being injured, but this requires a complex legal process and professional advice is a must.

My car was damaged but no-one was injured

Accidents where your car, or someone else’s, is damaged but no-one is injured are not covered by the CTP insurance scheme.

In this situation, your comprehensive car insurance (if you have any) will cover the cost of repairs, up to a specified maximum limit, and your insurance company will try to recover the costs from the person who was at fault or their insurer.

Car accident claim time limits

It’s very important to take action within designated time limits if you’ve been injured, otherwise your claim for compensation could be rejected. The CTP insurer must receive written advice with the details of any accident that could lead to a claim within 60 days of the accident. Your lawyer can arrange this for you.

To make a personal injury claim, the CTP insurer must receive the completed claim form within six months of the accident, or you’ll need to provide a satisfactory explanation for the delay. The same time frame applies to claims against the Nominal Defendant.

Speak to a senior lawyer

The best strategy is to see a road accident lawyer before putting in your claim. Our friendly team at NSW Compensation Lawyers will ensure that your claim has the best chance of a successful outcome. Talk to a senior lawyer today on 02 9601 0088.

See how we can help you

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