Injured motorists will pay the price of proposed WA law changes

Injured motorists will pay the price of proposed  WA law changes

22nd Feb 2024

Proposed new state laws will cut compensation to West Australians injured in a motor vehicle accident, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

The Insurance Legislation Amendment (Motor Vehicle Claims Harvesting) Bill 2023 was introduced into the Legislative Assembly at the end of last year and includes measures that will make claiming compensation more costly and onerous.

“The changes will force claimants to settle their accident claims sooner than they should, for less compensation than they should receive,” said Graham Droppert SC, past national president, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“We support the state government’s commitment to eradicating predatory claims harvesting practices, but the current Bill goes well beyond what is necessary and will result in injustice to those injured on the roads.

“Many of the provisions in the Bill have nothing to do with claims harvesting but will limit the rights of individuals to obtain proper compensation for their injuries.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance is a membership organisation of lawyers who act for individuals who have suffered injuries, including those who have been injured on the road.

“Every day we see the devastating impact of serious motor vehicle accidents,” said Mr Droppert SC. “We need to make sure our scheme continues to deliver fair and reasonable outcomes for people who sometimes have life-changing injuries.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance is calling for consultation on this Bill before it is progressed any further in Parliament.

“There has been no proper consultation with the legal profession,” said Mr Droppert SC. “We are the people working in the system every day and understand the consequences of making changes to the scheme.

“Over a number of years, the ALA has urged the WA Government to take steps to make predatory claims harvesting illegal. We have met with the Insurance Commission of Western Australia (ICWA) a number of times to encourage ICWA to approach the government to take steps to crack down on claims harvesting.

“At no time has ICWA indicated that it would make it harder for genuine claimants to obtain adequate compensation for injuries sustained due to the negligence of other drivers."

The ALA maintains that the new legislation will seriously impact injured motorists.

“These onerous new procedures mean that injured people are likely to have to ‘make do’ with inadequate compensation rather than risking the time and cost of a court case against a large insurance company,” said Mr Droppert SC.  “In many cases, injured motorists will be battling without legal representation against a monopoly insurer with new rules that favour the insurer and make the process very difficult for the injured person.

“One of the proposed changes compels the claimant to make an offer as early as six to eight months after notifying the insurer of the claim. In our experience, only the simplest and most minor of injuries have resolved at this stage.  There is not even protection for children or those with very serious injuries who are still having intensive medical treatment.

“The early compulsory settlement regime will have the practical effect of forcing claimants to settle their case before they are sure what they have lost as a result of the crash. If an injured claimant is driven to settle their claim too early, they will be trapped into paying all costs from that date.

“The WA Government has the funds to pay fair and reasonable compensation. There is no reason to focus on boosting insurer profits at the expense of injured people.”

Tags: Compensation Western Australia