Since the commencement of the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002, personal injury claims in the ACT have been subject to a strict pre-court procedure where parties are obliged to take certain steps prior to commencing any legal proceedings in the court. Richard Faulks, Managing Director at Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, explains that part of those pre-court procedures involves the disclosure of all relevant documents, including medical reports and similar records.
The practical effect of those provisions is that if a medical report is received, whether or not it assists either the injured party or the respondent to the claim, it must be disclosed to the other party. The policy behind such a disclosure is that all material should be available for consideration and the parties can then make a genuine effort to resolve the matter without any court action.
Motor vehicle accident claims
Motor vehicle accident claims are no longer covered by the pre-court provisions in the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002. Those matters are now dealt with specifically in the Road Transport (Third Party Insurance) Act 2008 which is the legislation which governs claims for motor vehicle accidents in the ACT. When that law was introduced in 2008, it included a pre-court procedure, similar to that under the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act, but also incorporating some further steps that you must take prior to commencing proceedings when injured in such an accident.
What happens if legal proceedings are commenced?
In some circumstances, agreement cannot be reached and legal proceedings are inevitable. The courts have had to consider what occurs once legal proceedings are commenced, and whether it is still necessary for parties to provide to the other party all medical evidence even after legal proceedings are commenced, if such evidence does not assist their case.
There had been an earlier decision of the court in a matter of Cleary v Rinaudo (2013) which interpreted the pre-court procedures under the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act. The court in that case determined that the obligation to disclose all material only related to the pre-court procedure and no longer applied once legal proceedings were on foot.
Is it different for motor vehicle accident claims?
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of the ACT found that the policy of the legislation was to ensure that all material was disclosed and that the intention was for that obligation to continue, even after legal proceedings were underway.
What this means is that in motor vehicle accident claims, a party will need to be aware of the obligation to disclose all medical reports and similar relevant documents, whether or not they assist that party’s case. If they fail to provide such documents, they will be ordered to do so by the court. There can be quite serious consequences for lawyers involved who fail to meet the relevant obligations.
Snedden Hall & Gallop can assist you
We have vast experience in personal injury and specifically in motor vehicle accident claims. We will work with you to ensure you have complete medical records of your motor vehicle injury. Please contact us regarding your motor vehicle accident as soon as you can on (02) 6285 8000 or by email. You can see details of our compensation representation here.
Richard thanks Paralegal Daniel Low for his contribution to this blog.