If you’re an expat living in the UK, you’ve already figured out that life in the UK and life in Australia are quite different. When you have a car accident, you’ll discover that UK law differs from Australian law when it comes to personal injury. Here’s what to know before and after the accident.
For at-fault drivers: there’s no state-provided CTP insurance in the UK
In Australian provinces, everyone is required to carry compulsory third party (CTP) personal injury insurance. This insurance gives you unlimited liability coverage in case you injure someone else in a motor vehicle accident. In some Australian states, you buy CTP insurance independently. In other states, it’s included as part of your vehicle registration fee.
In the UK, the law requires everyone to insure motor vehicles, but the government doesn’t provide CTP insurance. If you’re the at-fault party, and you’ve assumed that you got CTP when you registered your vehicle, you’re in for a rude awakening. The insurance company that covers damage to your vehicle, not the state, also covers personal injury damages caused by operating your vehicle. If you haven’t purchased personal injury coverage for other drivers as a part of your motor vehicle policy, you need to do so immediately.
For victims: there’s no insurance commission to resolve disputes
Australian states typically operate an insurance commission that handles damages claims from motor vehicle accidents. Instead of suing in court, you would first file your claim with the insurance commission. If you can prove that the other driver was negligent, the commission would reward damages. You didn’t have to seek legal advice unless the insurance commission denied your claim.
Unfortunately, in the UK, there’s no insurance commission, so all disputes are handled by private insurers and by the court system. It’s important to get help from a personal injury attorney when you seek damages to pay your medical bills or make up for time lost from work. Most UK personal injury attorneys operate on a no win no fee basis, which means that unless they win damages for you, they don’t charge anything to take your case. After you receive damages, you’ll pay your attorney a percentage of your award; if you receive nothing, you also owe nothing.
After the accident, Australian states have different time limits for seeking damages from the insurance commission. Rules differ for parents seeking damages on behalf of minors and for drivers who are mentally incapacitated. In the UK, victims have three years from the accident to seek compensation. The clock starts on the date of knowledge, which is the date that you realized you had an injury related to your accident. No matter where you live in the UK, start your claim sooner rather than later.
UK insurance rules just got stricter
UK insurance companies have long exploited legal loopholes to avoid paying claims. Insurers often didn’t have to pay claims if the accident happened on private land instead of public land. Additionally, courts wouldn’t require insurers to pay claims if the person, at the time of the accident, was using the vehicle for a purpose not specified by the insurance policy.
For example, if someone using a truck to transport livestock injured a person on a farm, the insurance company might get away with not paying damages because 1) the accident took place on private property and 2) the truck wasn’t being used to drive on the highway.
The recent court case Damijan Vnuk v. Zararovalnica Triglav has tightened these restrictions and strengthened the rights of accident victims. According to the European Court, insurers have to pay anytime someone injures another person while operating a motor vehicle for any reason. It no longer matters where the injury took place or whether the person was using a motor vehicle for the specific use outlined in the insurance policy. The Vnuk case is good news for accident victims seeking damages for their injuries, and it’s bad news for insurers trying to get away with not paying claims.
Make sure you have the right insurance coverage, and don’t assume that you have CTP insurance and insurance commission protections like you did back home. Also, if someone injures you in an accident, start your compensation claim right away.