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At-fault driver say “sorry”? They still cannot be sued

If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident and you are considering making a compulsory third party (CTP) claim, whether the at-fault driver admitted fault or said “sorry” to you does not expose them to being sued personally.

In Queensland, the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld) (‘the Act’) determines the process of how a CTP claim must be made by an injured person, and how the at-fault driver and their CTP insurer must respond to the claim. An at-fault driver (or rider) is insured by a CTP insurer so long as the vehicle that caused the accident and injury was validly registered at the time of the accident.

Whenever legal action is brought in a court for damages for personal injuries arising out of a motor vehicle accident, Section 52 of the Act says that the action must be brought against the insured person (i.e. the alleged at-fault driver/rider) and their CTP insurer as joint defendants. However, it also says that if a judgment is given in favour of the injured person and damages are ordered to be paid to them, the judgment order can only be ordered against the CTP insurer and not the at-fault person (unless there are some particularly unusual circumstances).

Even if the insured at-fault driver involved in the accident says “sorry” or admits fault or liability for the accident to the injured person (or their solicitor), Section 43 of the Act says that the CTP insurer is not allowed to seek damages from that at-fault driver for admitting liability.

This means that the at-fault insured driver/rider is not personally exposed or required to pay damages to the injured person regardless of whether they apologise or not.

Because only the CTP insurer is in the firing line, it is not surprising that Section 44 of the Act sets out that if a CTP claim is made against an at-fault insured driver and the CTP insurer jointly, the CTP insurer must undertake the conduct and control of negotiations and legal proceedings related to the claim“. The at-fault driver is not required to do anything, other than answer some questions from the CTP insurer, or state their version of events to the police or to the court.

Further, the law in Queensland under the Civil Liability Act 2003 (which also applies to motor vehicle accidents and other personal injury claims) says that an expression of sympathy, regret or compassion after an accident cannot be used as evidence in court proceedings.

Therefore, in Queensland, if you caused a motor vehicle accident and someone else was injured as a result, you should have no fear of being human and telling them that you are sorry – particularly when there is no risk of being personally sued by admitting liability for the accident, so long as your vehicle was registered.

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This post was authored by one of the Solicitors at ROCHE Legal. Should you have any questions, please contact our office.
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