Nathan’s story: Settling a TAC claim outside of the limitation period
Limitation periods are no doubt the last thing on your mind when your life, or that of a loved one, has been turned upside down as a result of a road accident. Victorian law requires you to lodge a claim strictly within 12 months from the date of your accident, and if you wish to pursue a lump sum claim for a Common Law claim, you only have 6 years from the date of your accident.
Many victims of road accidents are unaware of these strict deadlines and don’t understand that if a time limit is missed this may mean that they may be prevented from making a successful claim for compensation.
It is always important to obtain expert legal advice if to ensure that you understand your legal rights and the time limits which apply to you making a claim.
Nathan* did just that.
A 7-year struggle
Nathan was involved in a motor vehicle accident in June 2011. He was driving straight ahead when another motor vehicle misjudged the traffic and crossed into his driving lane. Despite there being major damage to his vehicle, Nathan didn’t go to hospital and instead returned home. That evening he developed neck pain, so he went to hospital where he had some scans taken of his neck, and was given some medication and discharged. In the following days Nathan could not work – he felt numbness and pain in his back travelling down his leg, as well as ongoing pain in his neck. His GP referred him to a specialist, who gave him an injection into his spine. His symptoms eased; however, the back pain continued and made his life difficult. Late in 2011, Nathan underwent an operation on his back, and took leave from work for many months while he recovered. Through an initial TAC claim, Nathan was paid for loss of earnings, and returned to work gradually in 2012.
Since 2012, however, Nathan’s situation remained stagnant. He suffered constant back pain and struggled to sit comfortably for long periods. He also had difficulty sleeping, due to frequently waking up with pain. He also suffers ongoing anxiety from his accident, which all impacted his sleep. Nathan consulted more specialists and tried to soldier on.
In 2018, 7 years on from the injury, Nathan was at crisis point. He was struggling with everyday work, and felt that his back pain had deteriorated greatly since the surgery in 2011. Financially, the injury had also taken a huge toll on him and his family.
Nathan decided to get in touch with Gordon Legal to get some advice on any compensation he could claim. He had been reluctant to engage lawyers any earlier as he thought his injury may improve.
Engaging Gordon Legal
The legal process for claiming damages from the Transport Accident Commission was first explained to Nathan when he met with one of Gordon Legal’s transport accident experts in 2018.
Nathan was entitled to seek common law damages for his injury. For a common law claim to succeed, Nathan had to show that the accident was caused by the negligence of another person, and that he suffered a serious injury.
Nathan’s lawyer at Gordon Legal advised him that his spinal injury was severe enough to be classified as a ‘Serious Injury’ ("a serious long-term impairment or loss of a body function; or long-term serious disfigurement”), and police reports existed which detailed how the accident occurred, so negligence would not be difficult to establish.
However, Nathan faced a major hurdle: according to the Victorian Limitation of Actions Act (1958), an action for damages for personal injury must be brought within 6 years of the date of the injury. As it was now 7 years on from Nathan’s accident, he was at risk of losing the right to sue at common law.
Overcoming the 6-year limitation period
At the time he first consulted Gordon Legal, Nathan was now just over 12 months outside of the limitation period to make an application to TAC. Understandably, Nathan was disappointed. He had no knowledge about the 6-year period. He hadn’t expected to still be so incapacitated 7 years on. Had he known about the limitation period; he would have consulted lawyers much earlier in the process.
Nathan’s lawyer at Gordon Legal encouraged him to persevere. She was determined to investigate all legal avenues for him, so that Nathan could get the compensation he needed to put his mind at ease into the future.
Gordon Legal pursued a Serious Injury Application with TAC, irrespective of the 6-year time limitation. The TAC can decide not to use enforce the limitation period in certain circumstances, and tries to accommodate any reasonable request for an extension of time provided there is an explanation for the delay and there is reasonable cooperation with the TAC in providing information.
His injury was sufficiently serious and he had suffered economic consequences, all of which he was able to prove through medical records, bank records, business records. Gordon Legal was able to explain to the TAC the delay in bringing the claim, and that his persistence with rehabilitation and attempting to improve his injury of his own volition during the 7 years demonstrated that he had not sat back and done nothing. Gordon Legal was able to assist Nathan throughout the process, assisting in liaising with the TAC, organising all of the medical records and evidence, and organised for Nathan to undergo new medical examinations to meet the TAC’s requirements.
Achieving justice for Nathan
Through Nathan and Gordon Legal’s unwavering determination, the TAC ultimately granted Nathan a ‘Serous Injury Certificate’ despite the expiry of the limitation period, which meant he could proceed with a common law action for damages. Nathan and his lawyer met with the TAC and an agreement was reached, avoiding any impending Court costs and avoiding the stress and uncertainty of a Court case. The common law damages claim entitled Nathan to compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, past economic loss and future lost earning capacity.
Nathan was elated at the result. And his only regret? That he didn’t seek out help from Gordon Legal sooner.
Don’t wait: get assistance for your TAC claim
We understand that being involved in a road accident or transport accident is extremely traumatic. If you have sustained an injury, an accepted TAC claim will mean you are entitled to claim important compensation for your injury. By lodging a TAC claim, you are starting the process towards receiving important payments - payments that are often vital for getting your life back on track and getting the crucial treatment you may require. These may include emergency treatment, hospitalisation, rehabilitation, lost earnings, counselling, travel expenses, etc.
If you believe that your claim may fall outside of the period of time the TAC allows for lodging a claim, then there are a few things that you can do. You can either contact the TAC directly or you can seek assistance from our legal team for help navigating your claim form and for further information about the time limits the TAC apply to claims. These can be tricky and complicated so allow yourself to seek further assistance if you are struggling to understand your rights and entitlements.
Have you been injured in a car accident?
If you have suffered injury from a road accident, you are entitled to make a motor vehicle accident claim with the TAC. We recommend you seek independent legal advice about your rights and entitlements. At Gordon Legal, our TAC lawyers can help you navigate your rights and any compensation you are entitled to claim.
As Nathan experienced, car accidents can have lifelong consequences. Our TAC lawyers understand the human toll road accidents have, not only on those involved but the ripple effects on their families and the wider community. For us every case is personal and you come first.
Read our FAQs about TAC claims in Victoria, or contact Gordon Legal today to speak with one of our friendly and experienced road accident lawyers on 1300 58 46 26.
*In order to preserve the privacy of our clients we have changed the names of persons involved.