Australia: Tips and facts before meeting a personal injury lawyer

Seeing a lawyer for the first time can be stressful. There are a number of ways you can prepare to ensure it is as smooth and painless as possible.

At Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers, we are personal injury experts who understand the law and take the stress away from you when you have been injured. If you have been injured in a car accident, at work, in a public place as a result of a faulty product or suffered an injury in the hands of a medical practitioner, we can provide you advice about any entitlements you might have. If you do seek legal assistance from Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers, your matter will be closely looked after by a partner and another lawyer who will have day-to-day conduct of your claim. A legal assistant will be able to help you with any administrative aspects and questions you may have.

Preparing for your Initial Conference

Once you have made initial contact with a law firm, a conference will be arranged with you and a lawyer to obtain relevant information and circumstances about your claim.

A conference can be overwhelming and it is understandable that you may forget to ask some of the questions you previously thought of. We suggest you prepare a list of questions to bring with you.

Some questions you may want to ask are: how long has my lawyer practiced in the area? Which lawyer will be handling my matter? What experience do the lawyers working on my matter have? What court or tribunal will my matter be in if it goes that far? How long will it take? How much will it cost?

The responses to the above questions are important to ensure a lawyer acting on your behalf has the appropriate expertise to handle your claim. If you have been injured, we recommend that you contact us at Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers who specialise in personal injury.

Initial Conference

Speaking about your unfortunate incident can be difficult. You may be more comfortable having a support person present who is aware of the circumstances of your claim. It may also be beneficial to write down the facts before your conference so that you do not forget to convey the key information to the lawyer.

A lot of information will be provided in the initial conference and it will be difficult to remember everything. Your lawyer will send you a letter confirming what was discussed in the conference however, you may want to take notes for future reference.

It is in your best interest to bring to the initial conference as much information about the matter as possible. Your lawyer will then be able to ensure the correct investigations are undertaken and provide you accurate advice about your claim.

In a personal injury claim, it is important to have the details of the accident and any injury sustained. The following documents would be beneficial for your lawyer to undertake the appropriate investigations:

  1. Police reports;
  2. Contact details of witnesses and treating doctors;
  3. Any medical reports, photographs, invoices and hospital discharge summaries corroborating your injuries; and
  4. Correspondence with/from the other party(s).

There is no need to bring x-rays or scans with you.

Information about your Claim

Each personal injury claim varies depending on its facts and circumstances. The information provided below should be a general guide as how your matter could progress.

If you have been injured and believe it is at the fault of someone else you should contact our office as soon as possible as strict time limitations apply.

Workers Compensation Claims

If you are injured at work and your injury has been disputed by the insurer, your lawyer will first collect all evidence in support of your injury and arrange for you to be assessed by a medico-legal doctor. Your matter will then be referred to the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC). The WCC is a tribunal that makes decisions on workplace injuries. Once an application is lodged, an arbitrator is appointed to your claim. A telephone conference will occur between you, the arbitrator, your lawyer and the insurer within five weeks from the date the application is lodged to discuss the issues in dispute. If your claim does not settle at the teleconference, it will be listed for a conciliation/arbitration usually within 3 weeks or you might be referred to an Approved Medical Specialist to make a binding assessment of your injuries. If there is no resolution of the claim at the conciliation, an arbitrator will determine your claim based on the evidence before them.

Comcare Claims

If your injury occurred while employed in the Federal Compensation System (known as Comcare) or while working for a Commonwealth agency (such as Australia Post or Defence Force), your matter will be dealt with by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). A matter can only be commenced in the AAT once a determination has been made by Comcare or the relevant body. Once this occurs, an Application for Review in the AAT can be made, and a conciliation conference will be set down within 6 months. If your claim does not settle at the conciliation, it will be referred to a hearing.

Motor Vehicle Accident Claims

If your injuries are a result of a motor vehicle accident and your injury is in dispute, your lawyer will first collect all of the evidence in support of your injury and usually arrange for you to be assessed by a medico-legal doctor. Your matter will then be referred to the Claims Assessment Resolution Service (CARS) or if in relation to the degree of injury, it will be assessed by the Medical Assessment Service (MAS). In order to claim damages for non-economic loss, you must be assessed over 10% whole person impairment. The CARS assessor will determine the damages awarded in your claim at an assessment hearing unless the matter settles beforehand. This would usually be a 3 to 4 month process from the time the application is lodged. If your matter is regarding a dispute about liability, if more than 25% negligence is alleged, in relation to a child or is a complex case, you will be exempt from CARS and will proceed directly to the District Court of NSW.

Other Personal Injury Claims

If you have suffered an injury, for example in a public place, as a result of medical negligence or in a number of other circumstances your case will be commenced in either the District Court or Supreme Court of NSW. This will depend upon the value or jurisdiction of your matter. Once this occurs, a strict court timetable will be entered to ensure it is dealt with efficiently.

Legal Costs

At Carroll & O'Dea, your lawyer will explain the legal fees which apply to your case. In most personal injury claims, a no win, no fee policy will apply. We do not charge you an upfront fee for an initial personal injury conference. We suggest you speak to your lawyer if you are unsure about the cost arrangement before you commence your claim.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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