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Confusing Time Limits for Personal Injury Claims

27/07/2009

Even to the average lawyer, the time limits that now apply to filing a personal injury action can be somewhat confusing. To the average non-lawyer, understanding the rules about when you need to commence legal proceedings after an accident can be completely baffling.

In the words of Tom Goudkamp of Stacks The Law Firm and co-author of Goudkamp and Morrison's Personal Injury Law Manual NSW, "It's definitely tricky. There are lots of hoops and hurdles to navigate."

Consider that beneath the broad heading of personal injury there are many different types of matters, including motor vehicle accident, work accident, medical negligence  and public liability ('slips and falls'). Then consider that for each of these matters different limits apply.

Back in the good old days of the Wran Government, former Attorney General Frank Walker simplified the whole time limit issue enormously. In a nutshell, under Frank's legislation you had 6 years to commence legal action after an accident, for all personal injury matters. Easy.

Today, you have half that time. And while the general rule seems to be that you have 3 years to sue from the time of the accident, it's not quite so straight forward. For a start, when the 3 year period begins is different for different types of accident.   And for many accidents there is both a 3 year time limit and a 12 year long stop limit.

And in addition to the 3 year limit, there are other time limits for different types of accident claims.

For example, provisions in the Motor Accident Compensation Act mean that you have to notify the police within 28 days of your motor vehicle accident. You then have to lodge a claim form within 6 months.

For work accidents, you need to let your employer know immediately, then lodge a compensation claim form within 28 days.
If you're injured in an aircraft accident, or making a victims compensation claim following a crime, the time limit to sue is 2 years, not 3. 

And if your lawyer doesn't meet the relevant time limit, you can sue them. This gets particularly murky as the time limit for suing the lawyer who missed the time limit (still with me?) is 6 years.

If you miss a time limit the court can sometimes grant an extension of time but Catch 22 - the rules are quite different depending on the type of accident.

Whoever said the law is black and white obviously never attempted to make a personal injury claim.

At the end of the day, you need to be aware that time limits do exist. If you've been injured in an accident, don't delay in seeing a lawyer. Even better, see an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury. 


 

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