In 2018, there were 1,136 road deaths in Australia. That means there were over 1,000 families that had to find a way to farewell their loved ones and pay for funeral expenses without creating financial stress at what was already a very upsetting and difficult time.

Paying for funeral costs

It is generally well known how expensive funeral costs are in Australia. Costs can work out between $4,000 and $15,000, depending of the type of funeral chosen. This can mean that a sudden and unexpected death of a family member in a road accident can be a financial shock.

In Australia, all states and territories have some form of compensation scheme that provides for people injured in road accidents, as well as giving benefits to the families of those that are killed. These benefits can go some way to assisting families in farewelling their loved one.

How the compensation schemes work

The compensation schemes are associated with compulsory insurance levied on vehicle owners through their vehicle registration. Compensation and benefits are paid in respect of accidents that involve a motor vehicle, such as a car, truck, motorcycle or bus, and any road user, including a motorist, pedestrian, cyclist or passenger.

The schemes and what they cover vary by state. For example, while some states provide benefits regardless of who was at fault – for example, a drug affected driver and an pedestrian may both be entitled to funeral benefits in NSW, Victoria, NT and Tasmania – others require the claimant to prove the fault or negligence of the owner or driver of the vehicle that caused the accident.

In these situations, a drunk driver who is killed by hitting a pole is unlikely to receive benefits, whereas a pedestrian killed by a drunk driver would have their funeral costs covered.

Summary of motor accident compensation schemes by state

State/Territory Entitlement Amount
Victoria

Transport Accident Commission

1300 654 329

No need to prove fault Maximum $15,560 for burial cremation and monument plus $5,180 for the immediate family to travel for the funeral if they live more than 100km away
Queensland

Motor Accidents Insurance Commission

07 3035 6327

Must prove fault Reasonable funeral expenses
Northern Territory

Territory Insurance Office

131 846

No need to prove fault Reasonable funeral expenses up to 10% of annual average Australian earnings – currently $8,242.00
Tasmania

Motor Accidents Insurance Commission

1800 006 224

No need to prove fault Up to $11,070 for 'funeral expenses' but does not cover gravestone or plaque
Western Australia

Insurance Commission of Western Australia

1800 643 338

Must prove fault Up to $10,000 for funeral and headstone expenses
South Australia

CTP Insurance Regulator

1300 303 558

Must prove fault Reasonable funeral expenses
Australian Capital Territory

Access Canberra

13 22 81

Must prove fault Reasonable funeral expenses
New South Wales

State Insurance Regulatory Authority

1300 656 919

No need to prove fault Reasonable funeral expenses plus cost of repatriating body interstate or overseas;

headstone if deceased not at fault

Motor accident compensation scheme in NSW

A new motor accident compensation scheme was introduced in NSW on 1 December 2017. Under the scheme – for people killed in motor accidents after that date – families are entitled to claim the cost of "reasonable" funeral expenses from the third party (green slip) insurer of the vehicle that caused the accident. This is regardless of whether they or someone else was at fault.

The scheme also enables benefits to be claimed if the at fault vehicle is unable to be identified, such as in a hit and run, or even if the at fault vehicle was stolen.

If the person killed in the road accident was a resident of another state or territory in Australia, the family can recover the cost of bringing the deceased home for their funeral. The scheme will also pay for the deceased to be repatriated to their home, if they are from overseas.

A separate claim can also be made to cover the cost of a headstone or memorial if there is fault on the part of the owner or driver of the vehicle that caused the accident.

At a time of considerable grief and distress, it may be of some comfort to families of persons killed in a motor accident that they can possibly receive compensation for the cost of funeral and burial expenses.

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.

Belinda Cassidy

Motor vehicle accidents

Stacks Goudkamp