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Important Considerations for Claims Involving an Unidentified or Uninsured Vehicle

The Nominal Defendant is the statutory body who steps in to act as the insurer in motor vehicle accidents caused by unidentified or uninsured vehicles.

A scheme involving the Nominal Defendant is important for accidents where someone is injured in a hit and run or where the vehicle is not covered by compulsory third party insurance.

However, it is a requirement of the Queensland motor accident legislation for an injured person pursuing a claim against the Nominal Defendant to undertake “proper inquiry and search” to identify the vehicle which caused their injuries.

There are uncertainties as to what will constitute “proper inquiry and search” and it appears the Court will scrutinise the circumstances of each individual case to determine whether enough was done by the injured person, placed in those circumstances.

The most recent consideration of “proper inquiry and search” was in the matter of Ford -v- Nominal Defendant [2022] QSC 179.

In this case, Mr Ford was driving his motorcycle when a light truck entered his lane and dropped a piece of timber from it’s tray.  Mr Ford swerved but his back wheel caught the timber, and he suffered a jarring injury.

The Nominal Defendant agreed the incident occurred and was caused by the negligence of the “unknown person”.  However, it asserted Mr Ford had not satisfied the requirements of attempting to identify the negligent vehicle through “proper inquiry and search”.

The incident occurred on 11 March 2019.  The day after the incident, Mr Ford reported the incident to his supervisor, an incident report was completed, and he attended the accident scene with his supervisor.  In October 2019, Mr Ford reported the incident to police and attended three (3) businesses on the same road to see if there was any CCTV footage and engaged an investigator to assist.

During the hearing, Mr Ford conceded he was aware of his injuries at the time of the incident and there was an approximate 20 second window where the light truck was visible, in which time he could have moved to a point where he could identify the number plate.

Based on this concession, the Court determined Mr Ford could have been reasonably expected to observe and remember the number-plate of the vehicle at the scene.  It was held that by failing to attempt to obtain the number-plate details, he had failed to engage in any proper inquiry and search.

It is apparent that what constitutes “proper inquiry and search” will depend on the circumstances of the case and the injured person.

It will be interesting to see whether Mr Ford intends to appeal the decision as it appears quite unforgiving for him to be expected to obtain and remember registration details within a 20 second window after sustaining injury.

Evidencing “proper inquiry and search” could include various steps such as attempting to obtain number-plate details, notifying the police, attempting to obtain information or CCTV footage from witnesses or businesses in the area, putting advertisements in the local newspaper, notices in local letter boxes, engaging an investigator and putting notices on online forums (ie. Facebook community pages).

What appears to be crucial for an injured claimant, is to take all reasonably practical steps to identify a vehicle and for these steps to be taken as soon as possible following the incident.

It is also important to note time limits for claims involving the Nominal Defendant are reduced and there is a requirement for the relevant claim form to be lodged within three (3) months of the date of injury.  Further, if a claim is not lodged within nine (9) months of the date of injury, the claim is statute barred.

Claims involving unidentified and uninsured vehicles are often complex and require many urgent steps to be undertaken to protect the injured persons rights.  Accordingly, it is imperative to immediately seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer following this type of accident to ensure your rights are protected.

Senior Associate
Zach has represented many clients throughout Queensland, interstate and overseas and has successfully negotiated many significant and complex cases and has extensive experience in various types of compensation claims.
Sean is proud to be a lawyer for everyday people no matter what their issue. He has practised in compensation law for all his legal career and he has a superb track record of achieving outstanding results for his clients.

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