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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 22 November 2007) . . Page.. 3693 ..

Australia—goes to lawyers. Or where, despite the procedural reforms enacted by the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002, the average cost of claims in the three following years increased by more than 50 per cent, and the average length of time between claim and settlement of a CTP case not only did not decrease, but actually increased, by nearly 20 per cent, to a staggering 1,161 days.

There are lawyers in this town who are efficient, and enjoying the procedural advantages presented by the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002, so one can ask: what does this say about the rest of them?

In Queensland the average duration of a CTP claim against NRMA is half what it is in the ACT. Justice delayed is justice denied, particularly when it means that your client’s mental and physical condition deteriorates while he or she is strung along. This bill therefore proposes to adopt the Queensland procedural provisions. Efficient lawyers, who put the interests of their clients first, will, I think, thrive under it.

I should add that the proposed claims procedural provisions were discussed with local senior practitioners and workshopped with the scheme actuary and the present and immediate past presidents of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, formerly the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association.

Consequently, there are some necessary changes incorporated in the provisions. The provisions are now equally demanding of both plaintiffs and insurance companies as defendants. The ALA was concerned that open disclosure in certain Queensland provisions was not fair to plaintiffs.

In addition, following consultation with plaintiff lawyers, a new part 3.10 has been introduced, permitting applications for judgement on account of violations in time limits. The government understands that insurers will also embrace these provisions.

Finally the Queensland legal fee limitations have been adopted. However, there is an important difference. The regulations will make provision for uplift fees to be available to plaintiff lawyers in certain circumstances. This has been done in consultation with local senior practitioners.

The purpose of civil compensation, statutory or otherwise, is to put negligently injured persons back in the position they were in before the injury. The essence of a modern CTP scheme is to provide efficient pathways to treatment, rehabilitation, and compensation that meet the expectations of those who pay premiums and those who suffer negligent motor vehicle injury. To deliver that outcome efficiently without imposing injury scales or thresholds or general damages caps requires a significant improvement across the board in the delivery of services and the administration of CTP claims.

Compensation is but part of the equation. Ask just about anyone injured in a car accident whether they would rather have their health or financial compensation, and nine times out of 10 you will be told that they would gladly forgo the money if they could have their health back.

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