As personal injury lawyers, we often find that injured people have preconceived ideas about personal injury claims. These may range from what injured people may be entitled to in damages, to how the claims themselves are calculated.

Here are some facts about personal injury claims that may surprise you:

  1. The largest part of a claim is usually economic loss. Compensation for loss of earnings – both past and future – is often the largest component of a damages claim. A significant focus is therefore placed upon obtaining evidence to demonstrate how an injured person’s earning capacity has been affected by their injuries.
  2. A significant part of a compensation claim is made up of actual losses that have been suffered. When claiming damages, injured people can claim reimbursement of medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses, as well as for past and future loss of income. The system aims to put injured claimants back in the same position they were in prior to their accident. Therefore, demonstrating that actual loss has been suffered is essential.
  3. Compensation for an injury itself usually only makes up a small part of a claim for damages. Compensation for “pain and suffering” is known as general damages. Unlike some jurisdictions, payments for general damages in Queensland are relatively small and are governed by the Civil Liability Act 2003 and Civil Liability Regulation 2013. Injuries are assessed by medico-legal experts and placed within an injury scale, with the compensation payable for general damages determined by where on this scale the injuries lie. There is therefore limited scope to increase upon the legislated amount that can be claimed for pain and suffering.
  4. Future losses are discounted. Claims for losses that injured people anticipate suffering in the future, such as future economic loss or the cost of future care or treatment, are discounted in Queensland. This is because it is assumed that the compensation claimed will be invested at a rate of return of 5% per annum. Future losses are therefore not calculated simply by multiplying a weekly loss over the rest of a person’s life, but must use multipliers set out in Litigation Discount Tables.
  5. The insurer may be required to pay a portion of your legal costs. In public liability or motor vehicle accident claims, if a claim settles for damages above a prescribed amount, the claimant is entitled to receive an additional amount from the insurer towards their legal costs. This is known as the payment of “standard costs”. While the amount payable by the insurer will not usually cover all of the legal costs incurred, it will often cover at least 40% to 50% of the total. The threshold amount above which a claim must settle for costs to be payable varies depending on the date of the accident.
  6. Most injuries cannot be assessed until at least 10 months after an accident. In order to calculate as accurately as possible how someone’s injuries may affect them in the future, injuries must be assessed and commented upon by a suitably qualified independent medical expert. These experts are unable to make these assessments until the injuries have stablised – meaning the injured person’s symptoms and consequent restrictions are unlikely to change significantly in the future. This is usually at least 10 months after an injury. It is only after these medical assessments have taken place that a personal injury lawyer may be able to advise a claimant on the potential amount of their compensation claim.

Navigating the intricacies of a personal injury claim can be complex and we recommend seeking advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected.

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