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Hit & Run Road Accidents – Unidentified & Unregistered Vehicles – Who is the Nominal Defendant?

In this blog, I will be discussing all things to do with compensation rights and entitlements with respect to what is often referred to as “hit and run” accidents and accidents involving unidentified and unregistered vehicles.

If someone has been injured due to a hit and run accident, the injured person is entitled to lodge a compulsory third party or CTP claim with the State Government insurer knowns as the “Nominal Defendant”.

If a road accident is caused by the driver of vehicle which is identified but is unregistered then a claim can also be lodged with the Nominal Defendant.

The Nominal Defendant is very similar to any other CTP Insurer like Suncorp Insurance, Allianz, RACQ or QBE in terms of its role to defend and manage the CTP claim including funding for medical treatment, rehabilitation and ultimately helping the parties resolve the matter at a compulsory conference or mediation.

There are a few important differences when making a claim on the Nominal Defendant.

If the accident has been caused by an unidentified vehicle, it is very important for the accident to be immediately or promptly reported to the Queensland Police Service.  When making a claim with the Nominal Defendant involving an unidentified vehicle, the injured person needs to satisfy the Nominal Defendant that the injured person has undertaken ‘proper inquiry and search’ so that the unidentified vehicle can be identified if possible.

Immediately or promptly reporting the matter to the Queensland Police Service is recommended but doing this or only taking this step may not satisfy what is meant by ‘proper inquiry and search’.

Other or additional efforts or steps that might help to satisfy the Nominal Defendant that ‘proper inquiry and search’ has been undertaken might include some or all of the following:-

  • Publishing an advertisement in a local paper or papers to try to identify any witnesses who may have observed the accident or vehicle or may have had dash cam footage;
  • Publishing a social media post or posts to seek community assistance to identify witnesses or dash cam footage of the area;
  • Contacting local businesses or residents in near vicinity of the accident to see if there is any CCTV footage of the accident scene;
  • Conducting a letter box drop or door knock exercise in the near vicinity of the accident scene

This issue was recently considered and determined by the Supreme Court of Queensland in the matter of Ford v. Nominal Defendant [2022] QSC 179.

Justice Martin determined that the injured person, Mr Ford had not satisfied the ‘proper inquiry and search’ criteria and his claim was dismissed.

Mr Ford was injured during the course of his employment with Australia Post while riding his motorcycle.  Mr Ford’s claim was that as he was riding back to the Australia Post Delivery Centre on Redland Bay Road, a truck passed him on his right and began to enter the lane in front of him.  At this time, a spall piece of timber slid off the tray of the truck and onto the roadway in front of Mr Ford.  Mr Ford swerved to avoid the timber.  The front wheel of his motorcycle avoided the timber but the back wheel did not and this caused Mr Ford to suffer an injury.

The Nominal Defendant accepted that the accident occurred and the accident was due to the negligence of an unknown person.

Justice Martin found that Mr Ford:-

(a)      could have, without great difficulty, observed and remembered the numberplate of the other vehicle;

(b)       was aware, immediately after his motorcycle passed over the piece of timber, that he had suffered pain; and

(c)       could reasonably have been expected to obtain the relevant details at the scene.

Mr Ford, by failing to attempt to obtain the number-plate details, failed to engage in any proper inquiry and search

An appeal has been filed with respect to this decision.

It is also important to know and understand that the time limits for lodging a claim with the Nominal Defendant are different to all other CTP claims for personal injury.

Ordinarily, the time limits for lodging a CTP claim are whichever is the earlier of the following:

  • One month from the first consultation with a solicitor regarding the possibility of making a claim; or
  • Nine months from the date of the accident

For claims involving the Nominal Defendant, the time limits are significantly tighter or shorter in some respects and include whichever is the earlier of the following:

  • One month from the first consultation with a solicitor regarding the possibility of making a claim; or
  • Three months from the date of the accident

If the Notice of Accident Claim Form is not submitted within three months of the date of the accident, the injured person has to provide the Nominal Defendant with ‘a reasonable excuse for delay’.

If the Notice of Accident Claim Form is not lodged and compliant with the Nominal Defendant within nine months of the date of the accident, then the claim is statute barred absolutely.

The nine-month time limit is very different and significantly shorter than the usual three-year time limit for the commencement of court proceedings in CTP claims which is the same three year time limit which applies for almost all other personal injury claims in Queensland.

The shorter time limits are quite understandable from a policy perspective as this allows the Nominal Defendant to investigate matters soon after the accidents have occurred in their efforts to locate the driver and vehicle if the vehicle is unidentified.

With respect to claims with the Nominal Defendant for vehicles which are identified but not insured, the amount paid by the Nominal Defendant in any settlement of the claim can be recovered as a debt by the Nominal Defendant as against the owner or driver (or both) of the uninsured vehicle which should provide strong motivation for everyone to ensure that their registration is fully paid before they start the engine of their vehicle or the vehicle they are about to drive.

Greg is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading compensation law experts. Greg has a very healthy practice and enjoys providing his clients with superior personal service in every case. Greg is absolutely committed to achieving the best settlement outcomes for his clients while keeping the legal costs down.

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