Motor Accident Compensation

Injured in a Hit and Run Accident. Do I still get compensation?

Mal Byrne, lawyer for car accident injuries in Adelaide, says you can still claim compensation even without the identity of the offending driver.

Mal Byrne, lawyer for car accident injuries in Adelaide, says you can still claim compensation even without the identity of the offending driver.

IMPORTANT: Major changes to South Australia’s motor accident compensation scheme start from 1 July, 2013. For people injured in accidents from 1 July onwards, entitlements change significantly. Click here to find out how.

If you are involved in a car accident, it is illegal to leave the scene without stopping.  However, we do not live in an honest world.  I was paying my car parking fees in the John Martin’s (now David Jones) car park one day when someone ran in to the back of my vehicle.  Before I could compose myself, the driver of the car reversed and drove through the car park exit without paying and sped away on North Terrace.  This was before the days of video surveillance and I was not able to get the registration details of the other car.  Luckily for me, I was not injured and had comprehensive property damage insurance.

Other people have not been so lucky, and are left with injuries as the driver at fault flees the scene. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they cannot claim for their injuries in a hit and run accident unless they can get the details of the other vehicle involved.  That is not necessarily the case.  The Motor Accident Commission, through its claims manager Allianz, runs the Compulsory Third Party road accident injury scheme in South Australia.  The insurance fee is included in your vehicle registration fee.  Hence, when an accident occurs, it is the registration number of the other vehicle that is the key detail to get.  However, if the other driver takes off and you do not get the registration number, all is not lost.  The Motor Vehicles Act allows people to claim against the Compulsory Third Party scheme for injuries sustained in a motor accident where the details of the other vehicle have not been obtained.  The Nominal Defendant takes the place of the Motor Accident Commission as the defendant.

However, claims against the Nominal Defendant are more difficult to prosecute than claims against the Motor Accident Commission.  In most circumstances where the other driver has taken off, there are no witnesses to the accident.  The injured person has the burden of proving to the Nominal Defendant that the accident actually occurred in the circumstances described in a situation where there are usually no witnesses. For this reason, whilst all claimants with third party injury claims should instruct a lawyer, it is especially important that you do so if your claim is against the Nominal Defendant. Never try and run a claim against the Nominal Defendant yourself.  They are more complicated and a lawyer’s assistance is essential.

Firstly, the Law requires a person claiming against the Nominal Defendant to make their best effort to locate the details of the driver of the other vehicle or the vehicle itself.  The claimant must notify the police immediately and assist the police in any inquiries that they make to try and identify the other vehicle.  The injured party must also conduct what is called “due search and inquiry” which involves placing advertisements and other tasks to satisfy the Nominal Defendant that all reasonable steps have been taken to try and locate the details of the driver or the details of the other vehicle.

Secondly, there is the issue of proving the circumstances of the accident.  If you have no witnesses, you are relying on the Nominal Defendant to believe everything you say.  In those circumstances, you will need a lawyer to assist with gathering  evidence that might assist you in convincing the Nominal Defendant that you are telling the truth.  This might involve interviewing potential witnesses and possibly even obtaining the services of an accident reconstruction expert to attend at the accident scene and examine whatever physical evidence might be available, such as skid marks, and then provide a report at least indicating that the physical evidence of the scene of the accident is consistent with your version of what occurred.

In short, all is not lost if you are injured in a hit and run accident. However, you must instruct a lawyer and you will have a tougher mountain to climb.  Nevertheless, there is hope that at least compensation for your injuries will be available in circumstances where compensation for damage to your vehicle is not.

If you were injured in a car accident and have the information required, read lawyer Gary Allison’s tips about making a compensation claim.

TGB is South Australia’s largest injury law firm. For a free initial interview contact us.