Whodunit? The nominal defendant, that’s who
Let’s say you are the victim of someone else’s bad driving. They disappear before you get their details, and you can’t identify the vehicle. You’re left with the expense and frustration, but there’s no one you can identify to hold responsible for the impact this has on your life.
Who you gonna call? Well the law has options available to you and you can use these options to get a measure of justice. There is a strange mythical and mysterious character called the “‘Nominal Defendant” who helps in times like this.
Under the Nominal Defendant scheme a person can claim compensation for injuries caused by an accident even if the injuries were caused by an unregistered or unidentified motor vehicle. As the name suggests, the scheme creates a defendant who exists in name only and doesn’t have a physical presence.
The Nominal Defendant is the culmination of a set of laws that have created a kind of ‘safety net’ for the people of NSW.
The effectiveness of the scheme was demonstrated in a case involving a 13 year-old girl, who was the victim of a hit and run incident. She was awarded $7.5 million in compensation as part of a claim made against the Nominal Defendant in the Supreme Court.
Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance is a pre-requisite for registering a vehicle in NSW. A small portion of the money CTP insurers receive from vehicle owners is pooled into a fund that is used when someone makes a claim against the Nominal Defendant. The Motor Accidents Compensation Act sets out the law in relation to the Nominal Defendant scheme.
While the Nominal Defendant does not have a physical identity, any action brought against it still has to be defended. The Motor Accidents Authority (MAA) will randomly allocate your claim to an insurer who will deal with it in the same way it would a regular client.
Before making a claim against the Nominal Defendant you must be able to prove that all reasonable practical means have been used to identify the vehicle and/or the driver.
The idea is to protect those who are truly deserving of compensation because they have genuinely suffered injury as a result of the negligent actions of a driver.
Damages can also be taken against the Nominal Defendant if an offender has a vehicle that is not insured, so ND is a good person to have around if you get into trouble. You don’t need to signal him (or her) with a searchlight in the sky like Bat Man. You can get hold of him through a good legal practitioner.