When a person in a motor vehicle is injured in a road accident and the other vehicle cannot be identified or is unregistered, there is a strict three month limitation period from the date of the accident within which the claimant must notify the Nominal Defendant of the claim.
The Nominal Defendant is a statutory body established under the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld) (MAIA) for the purpose of compensating people who are injured as a result of the negligent driving of unidentified or uninsured motor vehicles.
Section 37 of the Act talks about the limitation period for giving notice of claims arising out of motor vehicle accidents.
Subsection (1) of that section provides that before bringing an action in a court for damages for personal injury arising out of a motor vehicle accident, a claimant must give written notice of the claim to the insurer/s against which the action is to be brought.
Subsection (2) specifies the time limits within which notice must be given. This subsection says that where an action is brought against the Nominal Defendant notice must be given within three months after the accident.
This is shorter than the period for notifying insurance companies, where the time limit is the earlier of nine 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 one month after the claimant first consults a lawyer about the possibility of making a claim.
If the Nominal Defendant is not notified of the claim within three months of the date of the accident, the claimant is barred from bringing an action in court for damages for personal injury arising out of the accident against the Nominal Defendant.
I was prompted to write this article after speaking to a client who told me that he had been injured in a motor vehicle accident in about October of last year where he was unable to identify the other vehicle. As a result of the accident, the client suffered injuries to his neck which he has only recently investigated and which have become more apparent in recent times.
The client was not able to record the vehicle’s registration number and the identity of the driver that caused the accident was not known. The client was however able to describe some identifying particulars of the vehicle such as the colour, make and model and some physical characteristics of the driver of the vehicle. The client notified the police at the time of the accident and the police took statements from both the client and a person who was a passenger in his vehicle.
I explained to the client that because the driver of the other vehicle was unknown, his only cause of action was against the Nominal Defendant and that there is a strict limitation period of three months to give notice to the Nominal Defendant. If the client had come and spoken to me within that time a claim could have been made against the Nominal Defendant.
The only way the client could get around this was if he was able to identify the vehicle that caused the accident. I told him that it may be worth following up with the police. The police had advised the client that there were only 15 or so of the type of vehicle which the client had described in that area at the time and the police may be able to identify who these vehicles belong to and if one of them caused the accident. Another option was for the client to carry out his own investigations of the similar vehicles in the area.