frequently asked questions.
We understand legal matters can be confusing, so we're here to make things simpler.
View FAQ by topic
How much will a claim cost? Who will pay my compensation? Will I be out-of-pocket? And all other questions related to personal finances.
How to determine if you were at fault or not, how to know if the location of your accident is covered by insurance, and all other accident detail questions.
What are some of the common medical conditions for compensation? What is a medico-legal assessment and how do I prepare for this? And all other medical related questions.
People and the future
How does my claim affect my employability? What about my friends, family and coworkers? Will I be able to return to my job? And all other general questions you might have.
Will I be out of pocket?
There is a common perception that lawyers will bleed you dry. And we don't disagree, there are some firms that will do just that.
We want to help you better understand your fees.
We also want to help you stay in complete control of your legal spend and save money by doing so by offering you a number of ways we charge.
For starters, we pay for your disbursements.
Disbursements are the outlays (monies) that a law firm has spent in pursuing the compensation. They typically include payments for court fillings, medical experts and barrister’s fees. We will:
- Pay for these for you until you have received compensation
- Cover these costs from our own bank account, meaning lower charges for the service
We are happy to lend you our services. In addition to maximising your future money, we also want to save your current money.
Will receiving Centrelink (or other benefits) affect my claim?
No, Centrelink benefits do not affect your claim. But they do affect your compensation.
Once you’ve received your compensation money, you will be required to pay back statutory bodies from whom you’ve received benefits from – this includes Centrelink. Essentially, a percentage of the amount you have received in the past will be automatically paid back to the government from your compensation.
You may also be exempt from receiving further Centrelink payments for a period of time – after all, your payout amount could replace your need for Centrelink, depending what scheme you are on.
If you want to know more about the schemes affected, how much you will have to pay, and what you should do, you should read our article on Centrelink here.
Do I have to pay for legal fees up-front?
Your legal fees are absorbed by the firm acting for you until the time of your settlement meaning you will not pay a single cent on legal fees before that point.
If you want to read more about legal fees and how they work, you can check out our article here.
Can undisclosed income or incomplete tax returns affect my claim?
Just because you have undeclared finances or incomplete tax returns does not mean you are excluded from recovering compensation if you have been injured.
After all, you were injured at no fault of your own, and one missed tax return does not mean you have to pay for that for the rest of your life.
It does mean, however, that you’ll need to tread very carefully when proceeding with your claim to ensure your credibility isn’t brought into question.
If you fall into this category, where your financials are questionable or not up to date but you wish to proceed with a claim, then you essentially have two options:
- 1Try to provide some other evidence of your financial loss;
- 2Fix up your returns/ financials.
If you want to read more about how you can do that, you can check out our article here.
How can I prove my income if I haven't lodged my tax returns?
The number one thing you can do to prove your income is to collect any and every piece of evidence relating to your work.
That could be texts, Facebook groups, photographs, discussion notes from financial planners, etc.
How much evidence do I need to provide to prove my income?
There is no definitive, one-size-fits-all amount of evidence you need to collect. However, there is a definitive time-frame for which you need to prove your income - this is generally 3 years prior to the accident.
Any less is generally unreliable for a future prediction and will be discredited by the insurer.
Will owning a new business affect my payout?
Owning or running a new business can have a negative effect on your payout if you don't approach it properly.
That's because your economic loss is based on a comparison between your earnings before and after the accident, as well as what your projected losses will be into the future.
Your projected losses are based on what you were earning and where it was likely you were going to head. Without sufficient evidence of your earnings as new business, it becomes challenging to make a compelling case of how much you would earn in 10 years' time.
If you're concerned this could effect you, and you want to know how to navigate it, you can read our full article available here, produced in partnership with an expert accountant.
How can I prove economic loss if I run a new business?
To prove you've experienced economic loss, notwithstanding any external factors or being a business in its infancy, you need to collect any evidence relevant to your business earnings, calculate what this might've looked like projected into the future, and then off-set that against any abnormalities such as being in receipt of a crisis payment.
For a full explanation, you can check out our article here.
What evidence should I collect to prove my loss as a new business?
To support your claim for economic loss, you should collect any types of evidence that relate to your business earning capacity.
That could be things such as business activity statements, previous business successes of the owner, discussions with business partners, initial business projections, business strategy discussions, things like why the business started in the first place, and why it was believed the business would be successful.
This isn't an exhaustive list, and all forms of evidence should be considered. If you want to read more about proving your losses as a new business, you can read our article here.
How do I know when to accept an offer from the insurer?
Why are lawyers so expensive?
The answer is simple - lawyers are expensive because they get results.
These results are beneficial to both their clients client and the firm they work for. Those lawyers who present the most benefit to the firm they work for are highly sort after.
Naturally, highly sort after lawyers garner a high-demand, and law firms have to pay more and more and more in wages to retain them.
And, like we said, it's worth retaining these good lawyers because they're the lawyers that get results.
In fact, in 2017, the QLD Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC) found that legally-represented claimants received and average of $80,000 more in gross settlement than their non-represented counterparts. Taking out all court fees, lawyer's costs, etc, and the figure for those legally represented still fell at 5x the settlement amount of self-representatives.
Not only were the self-represented claimants awarded significantly less compensation, but they also had to do all of the work themselves. Every single piece of paperwork. Every single call to the police. Every single medico-legal evaluation. Every single witness interview. Every single grueling negotiation with an insurer.
But when you hire a lawyer, you assign nearly all responsibility and control over to an experienced professional. They take care of everything for you.
They know how to take care of everything because they face brutal and rigorous qualification standards.
It's their extensive training, education, and ongoing development that contributes to the success they have over self-represented claimants. In fact, lawyers have to go through a vigorous, expensive process to even act for clients.
- complete four years of university to get their honors degree (generally whilst working in a firm),
- complete 6-12 months of full-time work alongside assessment for the College of Law,
- submit an application to the Supreme Court of Queensland to be admitted as a solicitor,
- be admitted when the Chief Justice is content with their application.
Only then are they considered a junior lawyer.
And, after their extensive and expensive qualifications to become a junior lawyer, they still have two years of mentoring and guidance, and throughout their entire career have to meet Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points.
It's a brutal and costly endeavor.
- competition for results,
- their extensive training and ongoing development, and
- the work they do beneath the surface,
It's no surprise that lawyer's can cost a lot.
- If you want to take a deeper dive into lawyer's costs, you can visit our article here that breaks the process down step-by-step, and goes into thorough detail the breakdown of a lawyer's salary, their day, and how it impacts their charge-out rates for clients.
How can I keep my legal costs down?
How can I have the lowest cost lawyer manage my claim?
Having the lowest cost lawyer manage your claim is one of the fundamental ways to keep your legal costs down.
It's where it often pays to go with a bigger firm that has more lower-level, cheaper support staff to assist in running claims.
Firms that are bigger enough to accommodate lower-level claims managers will allocate them based on their complexity. And when it comes to claim complexity, there are two things that are considered:
- 1How hard it is to prove liability (who was to blame, or partly to blame, for the accident), and
- 2How much compensation will be involved (what is the likely financial loss for the person who was injured. We call this ‘quantum’).
A lawyer will use an 11-step questionnaire to work out where they fall on each scale, before applying their results to the 'Legal Efficiency Matrix'. This matrix gives them a clear-cut answer as to who should be managing that claim, and for what percentage they might need someone else's involvement.
The end result is essentially the more complex a matter and the higher the quantum, the more likely it is to need to be handled by someone more top-level. Someone like a partner.
Claims that are easy to prove, whether their quantum is high or not, will generally be handled by lower-level staff -such as paralegals.
If you want certainty around who should be managing your claim, and how to avoid the dangers of overcharging, you can read our full article here - complete with matrix, questionnaire, and step-by-step instructions.
What are the difference between flat rates and hourly fees, and which is better?
In any service industry there is the great debate of item versus hourly based rates.
If you don't understand what these are, item-based rates are fees based on the completion of a certain task - not the time it took to do it. An item-based lawyer would charge per page they've read of a document, or perhaps per phone call they've made.
It's a very objective charging system.
On the other end of the scale are hourly-based (or 'time-based') rates. These, as the name suggests, are based on the time taken to do something - not explicitly what tasks was completed. An hourly-based lawyer would charge for the time it's taken them to read a document, or how long they were on a phone call for.
It's a very subjective charging system.
A very subjective charging system that can easily be abused by opportunistic lawyers. After all, if they claim it took them 50 minutes to read one A4 document, who's to argue it didn't?
Realistically, when it comes to hourly versus item-based charging, one is a question of work completed, and the other is of competence and honesty.
In fact, there are hundreds of cases of people being ripped off by hourly-based lawyers, showing 'inflated charges' and 'erroneous work in progress'.
By using item-based charging, you can ensure you're only paying for the work that's done.
Key Benefit 1: Save Money
Not only that, but you encourage shorter time frames. After all, why would a lawyer extend the time it's taking to do something if they could be getting it over-and-done-with and moving onto other billable items?
It makes sense for an item-based lawyer to move quickly. But when it comes to hourly-based, they quite literally make money off taking time.
Key Benefit 2: Save Time
To counter these risks, the court's created a schedule of what they deemed to be the reasonable costs for lawyer's fees. This is called the Court's Scale of Costs, and (unsurprisingly) it recommends item-based costs for nearly every charge.
We touch on it in further detail in this article, however, essentially, costs that align with the Court Scale of Costs are largely recoverable in a successful matter. That means item-based lawyers who charge within the range of the scale help their clients recover more money after settlement.
Key Benefit 3: Recovery of Costs
When are hourly-rates preferred over item-based?
How do I know if my lawyer's cost agreement is within my best interests?
The answer is simple - their cost agreement should align with the relevant court's scale of costs.
The court's scale of costs outlines the price that they deem to be fair and reasonable for a lawyer. If your lawyer is charging outside the recommended ranges, or with predominantly time-based rates, you're likely to be getting ripped off. And nobody wants that.
In this article we provide a comprehensive overview of what the court's scale of costs are, as well as a step-by-step guide to auditing lawyer's cost agreements to ensure you're getting the best deal.
What are the Court's Scale of Costs, and why are they imperative to my claim?
The Court's Scale of Costs is a document that outlines the fees a court finds fair and reasonable for a personal injury lawyer to charge. This is dependent on the payout you receive, at what part of the process the claim settles (whether it goes to trial or not), and what offers of settlement were made throughout the claim.
The scales are vital to acknowledge when selecting a personal injury lawyer because they a. ensure you're paying the best price possible, but also b. are used to calculate how much you will receive in recovered legal fees for a successful claim.
By that, we mean the amount that you can recover from the other side is determined by the costs outlined in these scales, not what you signed in your agreement. That means if you've paid $150,000 in legal fees and are approved to recover 45%, but the cost assessor says the scale of costs say the fees should've been $125,000, then you can only recover 45% of the $125,000, not the $150,000.
Essentially, the amount you can recover is based on what the court deems reasonable for the work that was completed - not what was signed in the client agreement.
For that reason, it's vital to audit your cost agreements before signing on the dotted line. After all, the best defense is a good offence.
You need to be prepared and privy to the tactics a lawyer will use to exploit clients, before you become one of them.
How much of my legal fees are recoverable by the other side?
In the event of a successful claim, you can generally be awarded anywhere from 20-50% of your legal fees.
Just what percentage you receive is heavily dependent on whether or not your claim went to court, and if it did go to court, what offers were made previously in comparison to what the judge awarded.
These two factors will determine whether you get 20%, 50%, 90%, etc. Some of these costs are also split into recovery of costs 'pre-trial' and 'post-trial'.
For a more comprehensive understanding of how much you could be recovering in legal fees, as well as the why, and a bonus 1-minute quiz, you can read our full article on cost recovery here.
What are 'professional fees' and what types of tasks do they cover?
Professional fees are sometimes more easily referred to as ‘service fees’ because they refer to the direct costs of the service provided by a lawyer.
These fees are laid out in a lawyer’s cost schedule and are inclusive of things like:
They can also be charged on an item, time, or an amalgamated basis - the way in which a firm charges will just depend on their own preferences.
Our article here provides an in-depth explanation into when hourly versus item based is preferred and why, and even includes a free audit to check your lawyer’s professional fees before signing on the dotted line.
It’s important to get the best value possible on your professional fees because they make up a large part of your total legal bill, and can have a great baring on the amount you take home from your compensation.
If you want to read more about the part professional fees plays in your compensation, you can read our article on understanding legal bills here.
What are 'disbursements'?
Disbursements are the ‘outlays’ or ‘out-of-pocket expenses’ a law firm incurs from pursuing your claim. Just as a mechanic has ‘parts costs’ on top of their ‘service fees’, so do lawyers.
In fact, most businesses do.
In a personal injury claim, these out-of-pocket expenses are generally for things such as:
Just how much you will pay in disbursements can be difficult to control.
What you can control, however, is the amount of interest you pay on the disbursements.
You can find our number one tip (as well as the vital questions you should ask) in our article on legal bills here.
What is an 'uplift' fee?
An uplift fee is a generalized fee placed on each no-win no-fee matter a firm runs to counteract the risk of losing. After all, they’re only paid when they ‘win’ so they need something to compensate them in the rare occasion that they ‘lose’.
The fee is applied as a percentage to the firm’s professional fees, however, by Queensland law, the fee cannot exceed 25%.
For example, if a law firm has an uplift fee of 15% and their professional fees have come to $35,000, then they can charge 15% more than that amount. The total would be $42,500.
However, a firm wouldn’t be allowed to charge their total uplift fee if it exceeded the 50% settlement maximum.
If you want to have a better understanding of how an uplift fee works in conjunction with the other components of a legal bill, you can read our article here to get a step-by-step breakdown of legal bills.
What is a 'care and consideration' fee?
Care and consideration is a circumstantial percentage applied to no-win no-fee matters to compensate for the work done that isn’t adequately outlined in the court scales.
What we mean by that is it’s the more obscure, incalculable costs. It accounts for things such as:
Unlike uplift (which is a blanket percentage), care and consideration is highly circumstantial and can vary greatly between claims. In addition to that, unlike uplift which is capped by Queensland Law, care and consideration isn’t regulated with a maximum.
For that reason you need to make sure you ask the right questions at the right time if you’re dealing with a firm who charges care and consideration. You want to ensure they aren’t charging over 30% for this.
On the flip side, there are some similarities between the two more obscure fees (uplift and care & consideration). The fee is also applied as a percentage to the firm’s professional fees.
For example, if a law firm has a care and consideration fee of 25% and their professional fees have come to $20,000, then they can charge 25% more than that amount. The total would be $25,000.
However, a firm wouldn’t be allowed to charge their total care and consideration fee if it exceeded the 50% settlement maximum.
If you want to have a better understanding of how a care and consideration fee works in conjunction with the other components of a legal bill, you can read our article here to get a step-by-step breakdown of legal bills.
What is the maximum amount a lawyer can charge?
For any no-win no-fee agreement, the general rule of thumb is a lawyer cannot charge a claimant more than 50% of their payout.
The final percentage isn’t quite 50% (it is generally lower), however those factors are explained in further detail in the 50/50 Rule.
There are certain circumstances where a lawyer will charge more than 50%, however this is in extreme circumstances where a claimant has been fraudulent and caused great losses to the firm as a result.
If a lawyer experiences this, they can apply to the courts to have the 50% waived in order to recover a fair amount of their costs.
If you want to read more about the maximum a lawyer can charge, you can read our article here on legal bills, their components, and how they’re capped here.
What is the 50/50 rule?
The 50/50 rule is a statutory formula that regulates the maximum amount a claimant can be charged. It was implemented to ‘ensure claimants aren’t worse off financially after pursuing a legitimate personal injury claim’.
Essentially, it outlines that the maximum percentage a lawyer can charge is 50% of their client’s settlement fee minus disbursements and statutory refunds.
For that reason, the real maximum is generally around 42%, however it is just dependant on what disbursements and refunds a claimant might have.
The 50% maximum can be waived in extreme circumstances, however this is in the rare instance that a claimant has been fraudulent and caused great losses to the firm as a result.
If a lawyer is a victim of a fraudulent claimant, then they can apply to the courts to have the 50% waived in order to recover a fair amount of their costs.
For the most part, however, this won’t be a concern for genuine claimants.
If you want to read more about the 50/50 rule, the statutory equation, and where it fits into your legal bills, you can check out our article here.
What are statutory refunds?
Statutory refunds refers to any monies that you owe back to Centrelink, WorkCover, or other government bodies that might have awarded you a source of income since the accident.
The reason for needing to pay them back is because they are there to protect lost income... so is compensation.
By receiving a lump sum compensation payment, you negate the need for statutory involvement.
If you want to find out more about how statutory refunds might affect your compensation, you can check out our in-depth, step-by-step article here.
How will COVID-19 affect my business valuations for my compensation claim?
One of the largest components of calculating compensation is based on how heavily your income, particularly the value of your business should you be a business-owner, has been affected by the accident.
Calculating this becomes difficult when you have both internal and external factors occuring concurrently, such as a natural disaster or pandemic. It can be challenging to decipher what each loss is a produce off, and how to argue that it is to be attributed to that factor.
To navigate this, you would generally need an experienced accountant to help sort through the figures and arrive at an undebatable number.
What should you look at when considering a business valuation?
The list can be quite extensive, however the majority of the information is based on:
There are, of course, some other documents which your accountant will request. If you want to read more about business valuations, you can read our article here.
What is EBITDA, and how does it affect my compensation claim?
EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) is essentially net income with all the listed items added back. Add-backs are highly important in a claim for compensation as they are a truer reflection of your actual earnings and are often higher than simply your taxable income.
This means, by considering EBITDA, you could be eligible to claim for a much higher (and fairer) payout figure.
I have been in an accident, what should I do?
I suffered an injury at work, can I make a claim?
How do I know who was at fault in a rear-ender?
I had a slip and fall, am I entitled to compensation?
What does public liability cover?
What if I was partially at-fault in my incident?
I don't have the details of the other driver, or it was a hit-and-run. What can I do?
tHE CLAIMS PROCESS
Will I need to go to court?
Most Queenslanders think making a compensation claim is hard.
So hard that almost 200,000 people think about making a compensation claim every year but don’t.
So, what’s causing this compensation claim reluctance?
It seems that people’s reluctance to compensation claims is due to a multitude of factors, including having to go to Court.
The words ‘Court Proceedings” can send shudders down the spines of most Australians.
It’s a hassle most of us can agree we would just rather not have to go through.
Thankfully, the truth is...
Most compensation claims don't make it to court, ever.
If you want to read more about why, you can read our article here.
Who will pay for my compensation?
Can I change lawyers during my claim?
Can I run my own claim?
Can I bring a claim on behalf of my child?
Will making a claim directly affect the at-fault driver?
What is the nominal defendant and how do I start a claim against it?
Do I need to notify police?
How long do I have to bring a claim?
3 years. You have 3 years from the date of the accident to make a claim for compensation. After this, the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (QLD) will prevent you from making a claim.
Extensions are available in some cases, but are extremely difficult to obtain.
If you are under 18 years at the time of the crash, different timeframes apply. The limitation date is 3 years after your 18th birthday if you have not already commenced a claim. And the only way to commence a claim before your 18th birthday is if a parent of guardian commences the claim on your behalf.
How long does a compensation claim take?
There is a common misconception that compensation claims take years and years of work before you ever see a result.
As a result, people are reluctant to claim for compensation because they believe the time and effort will not be worth the compensation they receive at the end of a compensation claim.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
While it is true that some compensation claims can take years to settle, the reality is most compensation claims take just over a year.
That’s because the biggest indicator of how long your compensation claim takes is the severity of your situation.
In Queensland, over 70% of compensation claims are for minor impact. These compensation claims typically don’t take long to settle.
While this might be the average time it takes to see results, each person’s situation is unique…
..and each person’s compensation claim time is therefore also unique.
How do I start a claim for compensation?
What is CTP insurance?
CTP is a form of personal injury insurance that is compulsory for every registered vehicle in Australia – that means motorbikes, commercial vehicles, cars, and any other registered vehicle.
It provides compensation for people injured or killed in a car accident that is deemed to be not their fault.
That means the CTP insurance you select when you register your car would pay for another party’s personal injuries if you caused an accident. And, vice versa, their CTP insurance would cover you if they were the party that caused the accident.
You can read more about CTP insurance and how it works in our article here.
How do I know if I qualify for compensation?
Injuries come in many shapes, types, and sizes.
Some are visible to the naked eye whilst others linger under the skin.
Some will hang around for a day, some for a year, and some will never heal.
When considering an event for compensation, two key elements are analysed:
- IS YOUR SITUATION DUE TO THE FAULT OF THE DEFENDANT?
- HAS THE IMPACT OF THE SITUATION CAUSED MAJOR OR POTENTIAL ONGOING FINANCIAL LOSS?
If you fall under the both of the above criteria, it's highly likely you qualify for a successful compensation claim.
Remember, it may be a headache, or it may be a bruise, but it could be something much more than that.
Symptoms are not always instant and are valid to compensation claim for up to three years after the event.
Always get checked out by your GP no matter what your concern is.
Do I have to hand over my medical records?
What does it mean to 'not have capacity'?
In a legal sense, capacity refers to a person's ability to understand and process information to make a decision. A person lacks this capacity if their ability to make that decision is impaired.
In personal injury law, this is most commonly seen in brain injured clients. The lack of capacity affects their ability to make decisions around not just their compensation, but also in future life choices, wills and estate planning, etc.
If you want to know more about how a lack of capacity could affect a payout, you can read our article here, made in partnership with an expert accountant.
Do I HAVE to go to the doctor?
Will my rehabilitation (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, etc.) be paid for?
What is a medico-legal assessment and how do I prepare for it?
What are common conditions covered by compensation?
PEOPLE AND the FUTURE
What's involved in obtaining statements from employers and colleagues?
How does someone manage their compensation if they don't have the capacity to do so?
In the situation where someone doesn't have the capacity to manage their compensation, such as a brain injured client, the compensation will generally be paid into a disability trust to assist in management and disbursement of the funds.
These disability trusts can come in two forms - private, or public.
The public trustee is a statutory body run by the government to act as a trustee in situations where a private trustee is not suitable or has been removed by the courts.
A private trustee is generally a trusted family member or friend that has been appointed as administrator.
The two types of trusts attract different fees and requirements. To find out more about trusts and managing compensation without capacity, you can read our article here.
What're the risks or obstacles involved in setting up a disability trust?
The main obstacles or 'hurdles' to take into consideration are the costs involved in the public and private trustee, and which one is more appropriate under the circumstances.
From a legal perspective, the biggest obstacle is the argument from the insurer that the private trustee is too expensive. That's because, more often than not, the insurer is responsible for the cost of the trustee.
To counter this, submissions need to be put before the court that the private trustee is the best solution for the client.
To find out more about disability trusts, you can check out our article here.
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