Over the past 12 months there have been some significant changes to compensation law. The Illawarra Mercury spoke to RMB Lawyers head of compensation, Chris Sheppard, to find out what these changes are and how they affect claimants.
Illawarra Mercury: Hi Chris, tell us about your experience and qualifications.
CS: I have been employed at RMB Lawyers since January 2000 performing litigation work, mainly in the field of personal injury law and employment/industrial relations. I hold a Law Society of NSW specialist accreditation in personal injury law and I am admitted to practice in NSW and in the High Court of Australia.
In July 2008 I became an equity partner in the firm. Since 2013 I have also held the firm’s finance partner position. In that role I assume the responsibility for the firm’s financial considerations.
IM: What is involved in your role as head of compensation at RMB?
CS: Our compensation division has 11 lawyers who are supported by legal assistants, law clerks and graduates to work purely on customers’ person injury cases. It is a diverse field of work involving accidents at work, motor vehicle accidents, asbestos and other diseases, public accident matters, medical negligence and many other types of claims.
My role is to ensure the team has the right balance of work to ensure matters are being actioned and progressed as quickly as possible, mentoring and assisting the lawyers with technical legal work and questions, ensuring that our work systems are line in with our business plan, together with sourcing new work and referrals.
IM: What are some of the most important things people should know about compensation?
CS: It is vitally important to report an accident after it occurs. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve reporting the accident to your employer, the owner of the premises on which the accident occurred, to police or to an insurer. Likewise, it is important to report any injuries to your doctor. Any significant delay in the reporting of accidents and injuries can make it more difficult to recover the compensation that you may be entitled to.
The next step is to obtain specialist legal advice early. Beginning a claim late, in the wrong jurisdiction or failing to take any important step in the process can significantly impact the cost of any claim and the compensation which the injured person may be able to recover.
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IM: What changes have there been to compensation law in the last 12 months?
CS: The most significant recent change has been to the motor vehicle accident regime. As of December 1, 2017 our state government brought in new laws which severely change how people injured in motor vehicle accidents are compensated.
In short, the government has introduced laws which significantly reduce the amount of compensation which those injured in accident involving a motor vehicle can expect to recover. Injured persons are unlikely to be fully compensated for their wage loss, the pain and suffering they endure, the full extent of their treatment costs or for the help they may require in and around the home.
IM: What is your advice?
CS: Under the new motor accident scheme, it is important to report any accident to police and to lodge a claim form with the relevant insurer within 28 days of the accident. Claim forms can be lodged after this time, but doing so is likely to affect entitlements to compensation.
It is also important to report any injuries to your doctor as soon as possible. Many people fail to obtain treatment in the hope that they will recover naturally. However, insurers often use a delay in treatment as a reason to deny that the injury occurred as a result of the accident. Again, you are best served obtaining early advice from a RMB Lawyers specialist personal injury lawyer.
IM: What else should people know?
CS: Personal injury compensation law is a complex field. Strict time limits apply to most claims, so it is important that accident victims obtain specialist legal advice as soon as possible. Seeing a lawyer early is advantageous as it provides the lawyer with the opportunity to gather evidence which may become unavailable over time. RMB Lawyers acts on a ‘no win – no fee’ basis, so you won’t be charged as we perform the work to establish, investigate and pursue your claim.