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The law in Queensland imposes strict time limits, referred to as limitation periods, within which a civil action must be commenced in court. Claimants must be aware of these statutory time frames, as a failure to comply with same may mean that you are unable to bring a claim for damages, even if it has merit. An often-cited rationale for the imposition of limitation periods is the principle that the administration of justice becomes less efficient the longer it takes for a matter to come before the courts.
As a starting point and general rule, s 11 of the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld) imposes a three-year limitation period for actions in respect of personal injury. This includes dependency claims wherein damages are claimed in respect of injury resulting from the death of another person. There are exceptions to this general rule, including circumstances where a claimant is under the age of eighteen.
Other time-limits are imposed by the governing legislation for a particular type of injury, particularly with respect to pre-court procedure. Below is a brief and non-exhaustive examination of the relevant limitation periods and other time limits for claims for damages arising out of a motor vehicle accident. Note, however, that the determination of a limitation period for a claim for damages for personal injury is often fact-dependent, and therefore, claimants should seek timely legal advice on the issue.
Consistent with s 11 of the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld), a claim for damages arising out of a motor vehicle accident must be brought in court within three (3) years of the date of injury, usually being the date the accident occurred. Similarly, a dependency claim arising out of a motor vehicle accident must also be brought within three (3) years of the date of injury.
Other Time Limits
The Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld) imposes other time-limits in respect of pre-court proceedings that claimants should be aware of. Pursuant to s 37 of the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld), a Notice of Accident Claim Form must be given to the Nominal Defendant, in the event of an unidentified or uninsured vehicle, within three months of the motor vehicle accident. Otherwise, it must be given within the period ending on the earlier of nine (9) months after the motor vehicle accident, or if symptoms of the injury are not immediately apparent, the first appearance of symptoms of the injury, or within one month after the claimant first consults a lawyer about the possibility of making a claim. If a Notice of Accident Claim Form is not provided within these time frames, a reasonable excuse for delay must be given in the notice when provided.
Importantly, in the event of an accident involving an unidentified vehicle, if a Notice of Accident Claim Form is not given to the Nominal Defendant within nine months after the motor vehicle accident, the claim against the Nominal Defendant is barred.
Other time limits apply to claims governed by the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld). For example, in the event that a matter does not resolve at a compulsory conference, an action for damages should be started in the court within sixty days after the conclusion of the compulsory conference.
There are a number of time limits that may apply to a claim for damages arising out of a motor vehicle accident. The implications of failing to act within these time limits can be disastrous for claimants. As such, it is important that claimants act swiftly, and obtain timely legal advice in the event that they wish to do so.