Page 31 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 12 February 2008
While there is certainly a need to reduce the overall time taken to resolve claims in the ACT, I am not convinced that this kind of time limit is necessarily a sensible measure. There are several reasons why a time limit of 28 days may be insufficient for a bona fide claimant to comply with the section. First of all, we must not forget that the average motorist is not equipped with an appreciation of the processes of insurance law. Most people who are injured in a motor vehicle accident will be ignorant of the fact that they can apply for early payment of medical expenses. Some will only discover this upon speaking to a solicitor or speaking to their insurer, which for a variety of reasons they may not do straight away. Even once they are made aware of this provision, the person must prepare the necessary documents and obtain a medical report on their injuries. Depending on the complexity of the injuries, this may take some time. It certainly will not be immediate.
In discussions with the Department of the Treasury we have been assured that claimants will be able to lodge a claim before they have received a medical report and then lodge that medical report later. Despite this assurance, I am not satisfied that this is the case under the words of the bill. Proposed new clause 67E of the bill clearly requires the claimant to lodge a medical report with their insurer within 28 days of the accident in order to be entitled to payment for medical expenses. There is no ambiguity in those provisions. This concern has been raised with me by the Law Society of the ACT. They are also concerned that the time limit is way too short.
The amendment that I propose will extend the time limit for lodgement of this claim from 28 days to 120 days. I think this period of time is not an unreasonable period given the experience most of us have with insurance matters. I think it shows regard for efficiency but at the same time understands and respects the right of potential claimants. In my view this longer period will give sufficient time for claimants to become informed of their legal position and to be able to obtain a medical report of their injuries and lodge a claim.
In many cases claimants may choose to lodge their claim early in order to obtain payment as soon as possible. It may even be the case that the majority of claimants will lodge within 28 days even though they do not have to, but I will be very surprised if in practice it turns out that that is achieved as quickly as is the ambition within this bill.
I do not think that the extension of this time limit will greatly extend the overall time taken for the resolution of claims or the attendant costs. Indeed, we should not become so caught up in the fervour of claim time reduction that we impose processes that are difficult to comply with. I hope the government will consider accepting this amendment. I recommend this amendment to the Assembly.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (12.14): Mr Mulcahy’s amendment has immediate appeal. One hesitates to suggest that it is inappropriate to extend additional time to somebody injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident in the context of the trauma of the accident and the things that they are dealing with. It seems hard-hearted intuitively to object to an extension of 28 days