On 1 July 2016 the National Injury Insurance Scheme (“the Scheme”) commenced in Queensland. The Scheme will provide treatment and support for people who suffer serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents in Queensland regardless of fault.
The Scheme will only apply to people who are injured in motor vehicle accidents who sustain a “serious personal injury” defined to include:-
- Permanent spinal cord injuries;
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Serious amputations;
- Serious burns;
- Permanent blindness.
In Queensland, the Scheme is anticipated to be relevant to 130 to 140 people per year who suffer a catastrophic injury in a motor vehicle accident in Queensland.
Prior to 1 July 2016, if a person suffered a serious personal injury in a motor vehicle accident and they were the at fault driver, they faced the prospect of receiving no compensation at all.
With the introduction of the Scheme, at fault drivers who suffer a serious personal injury will at least have the ability to rely on the Scheme. However, people who suffer a serious personal injury in a motor vehicle accident who were not the at fault driver, such as drivers of other vehicles involved in the accident or passengers, will have to choose whether it is more advantageous for them to only seek their damages which is the same system that existed prior to 1 July 2016, or whether to seek a combination of damages (for economic losses and pain and suffering for example) and participate in the Scheme (for the costs of care).
The types of support that can be provided under the Scheme include medical or pharmaceutical treatment, dental treatment, rehabilitation, ambulance transport, respite care, and attendant care and support services. The person will need to meet the eligibility criteria to obtain support under the Scheme. A person will not qualify if they receive an award of damages (whether that be an out of court settlement or a court judgment) for treatment, care and support needs having opted out of participating in the Scheme.
The scheme is administered by the National Insurance Agency and is funded by annual levies paid by motorists. Those levies on Queensland motorists are to commence from 1 October 2016.
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident in Queensland, you will need to make an application within one year of that accident happening to participate in the Scheme. Applications can be accepted after one year but will have to rely on the agency exercising a discretion in the applicant’s favour. If you are accepted to participate in the Scheme, a care and support plan will be developed detailing the particular person’s needs. Participants in the Scheme can then make “service requests” to the agency to fund the particular item of care, treatment and support.
If you have been catastrophically injured in an accident, please contact one of our lawyers for advice without delay, noting that for people injured in a motor vehicle accident who are not at fault, there are still significant decisions to be made in relation to whether to participate in the Scheme including issuing notices to preserve your rights to participate in the Scheme should it transpire that the Scheme provides more beneficial care and assistance in the long term than a damages award does.
- Those people who are catastrophically injured and cannot demonstrate fault will have lifetime coverage for care and equipment.
- Those people who can demonstrate fault may choose to abandon their right to claim care and equipment in their damages claim and receive lifetime care and support benefits from the scheme and pursue in their damages claim all other heads of damage currently available such as economic loss and pain and suffering.
- Subject to the legislation, people will be able to (where fault is demonstrated) choose to opt out of the lifetime care and support scheme and receive their care and equipment heads of damage in a lump sum.