We are continuing to service the community during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic . Read more >>
Select Page
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Free Case Review - 1300 720 544
You are here » Home » Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries such as tetraplegia, quadriplegia, paraplegia, hemiplegia, diplegia or monoplegia can have devastating consequences on the injured person and their family. This can be the case also for those that suffer cauda equina injuries (injuries to the sack of nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord) and brachial plexus injuries (injuries to the network of nerves at the bottom of the neck and in the shoulders).

Fortunately, there are a number of options available for those that suffer these types of injuries. What type(s) of claim(s) you will be able to pursue will depend on how the accident occurred and whether the injury is considered to be a “serious personal injury” (as defined by the legislation).

Spinal Cord Injuries Suffered Whilst Working

When you suffer a spinal cord injury a result of an accident at work, you will first need to lodge a statutory workers’ compensation claim with WorkCover Queensland (or your employer’s workers’ compensation self-insurer).

WorkCover will then determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits under the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS) and will apply to NIISQ on your behalf for support. WorkCover will pay weekly benefits for your lost wages and NIISQ will cover all of your treatment, care and support needs. For more information on how claims with NIIS work, click here.

If your employer’s negligence, or the negligence of a co-worker, caused your injury, then you will also be able to pursue a common law claim for damages.  You are not, however, able to commence a common law claim for damages until your statutory workers’ compensation claim ceases.

For more information on work related injury claims generally click here.

If you are between the ages of 7 and 65, you may also be eligible to make a claim under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). For more information about the NDIS click here.

Spinal Cord Injuries Suffered in a Car Accident

When you suffer a spinal cord injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, motorbike accident, bus accident, truck accident, scooter accident, bicycle accident (caused by a vehicle) or any other accident on the road, you will need to lodge a claim with the CTP insurer of the vehicle that caused the accident.  Pedestrians can also bring a CTP claim if they were struck by a vehicle and the driver of the vehicle caused or contributed to the accident.

You will also be able to lodge a claim with the National Injury Insurance Scheme Queensland (NIISQ). NIISQ manages all treatment, care and support needs for anyone who has suffered spinal cord injuries in a car accident, as well as other injuries that are considered to be “serious personal injuries”. For more information on how claims with NIISQ work, click here.

For more information on CTP claims generally click here.

If you are between the ages of 7 and 65, you may also be eligible to make a claim under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). For more information about the NDIS click here.

Spinal Cord Injuries Suffered on Someone Else’s Property or in a Public Place

Where you suffer a spinal cord injury in a public place, at someone else’s workplace, business or venue, or on someone else’s property, you may be able to sue them for negligence. These types of claims are called public liability injury claims, which are governed by the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (Qld) and the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld).

In order to pursue a public liability injury claim, you must be able to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your injury.

Public liability injury claims can include:

  • Independent contractors / subcontractors injured on someone else’s work site
  • Slip and fall accidents at someone else’s home, at a venue or in a public place
  • Trip and fall accidents at someone else’s home, at a venue or in a public place
  • Injuries caused by defective equipment
  • Injuries caused by faulty products
  • Injuries sustained in a residential building
  • Injuries sustained in commercial buildings or business premises
  • Accidents at private residences
  • Injuries sustained in rental premises
  • Boating accidents
  • Jet ski accidents
  • Other watersport accidents (eg tubing)
  • Accidents that occur in public parks or playgrounds
  • Injuries that are sustained at sports or leisure centres
  • Injuries sustained at school
  • Injuries caused by dogs, horses or other animals
  • Injuries sustained playing sport
  • Injuries suffered at recreational activity venues
  • Accidents happening at amusement parks and venues
  • Airline and aviation accidents
  • Abuse and assault claims
  • Psychological injuries suffered as a result of serious injury or death of another

For more information on public liability claims generally, click here.

Unfortunately, at this stage the National Injury Insurance Scheme (Qld) does not apply to those people who are entitled to bring a public liability injury claim.  The scheme presently only covers those involved in accidents on the road or at work.

If you are between the ages of 7 and 65, however, you may be eligible to make a claim under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). For more information about the NDIS click here.

Spinal Cord Injuries Suffered Due to Medical Negligence

If your spinal cord injury has been caused by the fact that the treatment you received from a hospital, doctor, nurse or other health practitioner fell short of the standard reasonably expected of them, then you will be able to pursue a personal injury claim for medical negligence.

Your claim would be against the health practitioner(s) responsible for your spinal cord injury and their professional indemnity insurer would then take over the conduct of the matter.

Strict time limits apply to medical negligence personal injury claims, so please seek legal advice as early as possible. For more information on medical negligence injury claims, click here.

Unfortunately, at this stage the National Injury Insurance Scheme (Qld) does not apply to those people who are entitled to bring a public liability injury claim.  The scheme presently only covers those involved in accidents on the road or at work.

If you are between the ages of 7 and 65, however, you may be eligible to make a claim under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). For more information about the NDIS click here.

What compensation or benefits can you claim?

This depends on what scheme you are covered by and whether you are eligible to receive benefits from NIISQ or the NDIS.

What can you claim from NIISQ?

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident or a work accident and are eligible to receive benefits NIIS benefits, then NIISQ will pay for the following necessary and reasonable treatment, care and support needs:

  • medical or pharmaceutical treatment
  • dental treatment
  • rehabilitation
  • ambulance transportation
  • respite care
  • attendant care and support services
  • aids and appliances (other than ordinary personal or household items)
  • prosthesis
  • education or vocational training
  • home or transport modifications

What can you claim from WorkCover Queensland, the CTP insurer or other insurers?

This depends on what personal injury scheme you are under but you may be able to claim some or all of the following:

  • pain and suffering, loss of amenities and loss of enjoyment of life
  • past lost income
  • past out of pocket expenses (eg treatment, rehabilitation, medication, transportation, aids, appliances, prosthesis, home modifications, transport modifications, education and training)
  • past paid services (eg attendant care and support services, cleaning, cooking, gardening, housekeeping, mowing, etc), provided these services were not being provided prior to your injury
  • past gratuitous (unpaid) services provided by family and friends, if those services are provided for at least six (6) hours per week for a minimum of six (6) months, provided those services were not being provided prior to your injury
  • interest on any past lost income, expenses or paid services
  • future potential loss of income/ earning capacity
  • future potential out-of-pocket expenses
  • future potential paid services
  • future potential (unpaid) gratuitous services provided by family and friends

What can you claim from the NDIS?

If you are eligible to receive benefits from the NDIS, then you may be able to claim one or more of the following supports:

  • daily personal activities needs
  • transport to enable participation in community, social, economic and daily life activities
  • workplace help to allow a participant to successfully get or keep employment in the open or supported labour market
  • therapeutic supports including behaviour support
  • help with household tasks to allow the participant to maintain their home and home environment
  • help to a participant by skilled personnel in aids or equipment assessment, setup and training
  • home modification design and construction
  • mobility equipment
  • vehicle modifications

The NDIS will NOT fund a support that is:

  • the responsibility of another government system or community service (eg something funded by NIISQ)
  • not related to a person’s disability
  • relates to day-to-day living costs that are not related to a participants support needs
  • is likely to cause harm to the participant or pose a risk to others

For more information on the interaction between the various insurance schemes, NIISQ and the NDIS (ie who pays what) click here.

So, what can East Coast Injury Lawyers do to help?

We provide free initial advice. We will consider all available information, undertake investigations where needed, and provide you with our opinion regarding your claim. This would include whether we believe you would succeed in a claim, what your options are with respect to the various insurance schemes, NIISQ and the NDIS and what you should do immediately to ensure that you receive the best care and support possible as quickly as possible.

If we consider that your claim is likely to have reasonable prospects of success, then we will agree to take your matter on, on a “no win no fee” basis. Click here for more information on how we charge.

Strict time limits apply to personal injury claims, so speak with one our expert personal injury lawyers today.

When to engage a personal injury lawyer?

You should engage a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. This is so we can:

  • provide you with all the advice and assistance you need, including setting out what your options are;
  • help you lodge your claim(s) with NIISQ, the CTP Insurer, WorkCover Queensland (or a workers’ compensation self-insurer) and/or any other insurer;
  • track down witnesses and obtain statements and other liability evidence about the accident before it goes missing or memories fade;
  • assist with coordinating your treatment, care and support, including any home and transport modifications required;
  • ensure that NIISQ or another insurer is paying for all the treatment, care and support you need;
  • make sure that your treatment providers are undertaking all appropriate investigations and providing the best possible treatment; and
  • make sure that the insurer is fully aware of all the injuries you have sustained, so that you can be properly compensated for them.
How do I start my claim(s) for my spinal cord injury?

The process involved depends on how your injury occurred (eg in a motor vehicle accident, at work, in a public place or in a hospital).

Click here to find out how to start a claim if you were involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Click here to find out how to start a claim if you were involved in a work accident.

Click here to find out how to start a claim if you were injured in a public place or at someone else’s home, business or venue.

Click here to find out how to start a claim if your spinal cord injury was caused by medical negligence.

How do I start my claim(s) for my brain injury?

The time limits involved change depending on how you were injured (eg in a motor vehicle accident, at work, in a public place or in a hospital).

Car accidents (and other accidents on the road):

Vehicles that have been identified (even if unregistered):

A person injured in a motor vehicle accident, where the vehicle has at fault been identified, has one (1) month from the date they first consult with a lawyer or nine (9) months from the date of accident, whichever is the earlier, to serve a Notice of Accident Claim Form on the CTP Insurer of the vehicle.  In the case of unregistered vehicles, the claim form has to be served on the Nominal Defendant, a government insurer.

A Notice of Accident Claim Form can still be served on the insurer after the nine (9) month timeframe up to three (3) years after the date of accident provided it contains a reasonable excuse for the delay.

You must then settle your CTP claim with the CTP insurer, or commence court proceedings (by filing a Claim and Statement of Claim), within three (3) years of the date of accident.

Subject to some very limited exceptions, your right to receive compensation for your personal injuries will be lost completely if court proceedings are not commenced within three (3) years of the date of accident. If you are outside that timeframe, please seek legal advice urgently to find out if there are any exceptions that apply to you.

Vehicles that remain unidentified:

A person injured in a motor vehicle accident, where the vehicle at fault has NOT been identified (eg in a hit and run), only has one (1) month from the date they first consult with a lawyer or three (3) months from the date of accident, whichever is the earlier, to serve a Notice of Accident Claim Form on the Nominal Defendant (a government insurer).

A Notice of Accident Claim Form can still be served after the three (3) month timeframe up to nine (9) months after the date of accident provided it contains a reasonable excuse for the delay.

If a Notice of Accident Claim Form is not served on the Nominal Defendant within nine (9) months from the date of accident, all rights to receive compensation are lost.

Provided a Notice of Accident Claim Form has been served within nine (9) months from the date of accident, you must then settle your CTP claim with the CTP insurer, or commence court proceedings (by filing a Claim and Statement of Claim), within three (3) years of the date of accident.

Work accidents:

A workers’ compensation common law claim cannot be started until after the injured worker receives a Notice of Assessment from WorkCover setting out the degree of any permanent impairment, with a lump sum offer for the permanent impairment.

Once a Notice of Assessment issues, an injured worker then has three (3) years from the date of injury to serve a Notice of Claim for Damages on their employer and WorkCover Queensland and to receive a “compliance” response from WorkCover confirming that they have provided all necessary information.

If those steps are not taken within the three (3) year limitation period to protect the worker’s interests, all rights to receive compensation are lost. There are some limited exceptions to this rule, however, so if you are outside that timeframe, please seek legal advice urgently to find out if there are any exceptions that apply to you.

There is also the possibility of being able to pursue a “common law only” claim if you suffered an injury at work but never lodged a statutory workers’ compensation claim. A “common law only” claim must be commenced within three (3) years of the date of accident.

Public liability injury claims:

To commence a public liability injury claim, you have to serve a Form 1 Part 1 Notice of Claim on the individual or company that caused your injury (“the Respondent”).

That claim form has to be served on the Respondent within one (1) month from the date you instruct a lawyer to act on your behalf or within nine (9) months from the date of accident, whichever is the earlier.

A claim can still be commenced outside the nine (9) month timeframe up to three (3) years after the date of accident but you have to provide a reasonable excuse for the delay.

You must then settle your claim with the public liability insurer, or commence court proceedings (by filing a Claim and Statement of Claim), within three (3) years of the date of accident. There are some limited exceptions to this rule, however, so please speak with one of our expert personal injury lawyers to discuss any options you might have in that regard.

Medical negligence claims:

To commence a medical negligence claim, you must serve an “Initial Notice” on the hospital, doctor or other health practitioner that caused your injury (“the Respondent”).

That Initial Notice has to be served on the Respondent within one (1) month from the date you instruct a lawyer to act on your behalf or nine (9) months from the date the medical negligence occurred (or from the date your symptoms first appeared), whichever is the earlier.

An Initial Notice can still be served upon the Respondent outside the nine (9) month timeframe up to three (3) years after the medical negligence occurred but you have to provide a reasonable excuse for the delay.

Once any relevant clinical notes surrounding your medical treatment have been received, you then have twelve (12) months to serve a Form 1 Part 1 Notice of Claim and a supporting medical report on the Respondents.

You must then settle your claim with the professional indemnity insurer, or commence court proceedings (by filing a Claim and Statement of Claim), within three (3) years from the date the medical negligence occurred. There are some limited exceptions to this rule, however, so please speak with one of our expert personal injury lawyers to discuss any options you might have in that regard.

Who would my claim be against?

This depends on how you were injured (eg at work, in a car accident, in hospital or in a public place).

Car accidents (and other accidents on the road):

Your claim will be against the CTP insurer of the vehicle that caused the accident.  You will be alleging that the driver of that vehicle was at fault but the CTP insurer is the one that conducts the defence of the claim on behalf of that driver.

In circumstances where the vehicle is unregistered or cannot be identified, then the claim is against the Nominal Defendant (a government insurer).

Work accidents:

In order to pursue a workers’ compensation common law claim you have to prove that your employer or a co-worker was negligent in some way.  Your employer will be held liable for the actions of any co-workers, provided they were acting within the scope of their employment.  

As a result, when you bring a common law claim you are effectively suing your employer for negligence but they are then covered by their insurer, which is WorkCover Queensland (or a self-insurer). WorkCover assumes the defence of the claim and ultimately pays out any settlement amount or court award.

Public liability injury claims:

Your claim will be against the individual or company that caused the accident (“the Respondent”).

The Respondent may have to pay a relatively small excess on their insurance and their public liability insurer then takes over the conduct of the claim and pays out any compensation.

Medical negligence claims:

Your claim will be against the hospital, doctor or other health professional whose treatment fell short of the standard reasonably expected of them.

They may have to pay a relatively small excess on their insurance and their professional indemnity insurer then takes over the conduct of the claim and pays out any compensation.

What if the person at fault for the accident was a family member or friend?

Car accidents (or other accidents on the road):

Provided your family member’s vehicle or friend’s vehicle was registered and there is nothing else untoward (see the exceptions listed below), then there will be absolutely no issue at all. They will not even have to pay an excess to the CTP insurer. The CTP insurer of the vehicle simply assumes control of the claim and communicates directly with your lawyers.

This means that passengers in cars can bring claims against their own family member, if the accident was caused by their family member, without fear of any financial or other penalty.

Exceptions to the rule:

  1. If the vehicle was being used without the owner’s authority or without legal justification or excuse, then the insurer may have a right to recover all the compensation and costs paid from the driver.
  2. If the driver intended to harm you or some other person (resulting in your injury), then the insurer may have a right to recover all the compensation and costs paid from the driver.
  3. If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, which then caused or contributed to the accident, the insurer may have a right to recover all the compensation and costs paid from the driver.
  4. If the vehicle was being used to commit a crime or for some other illegal purpose, then the insurer may have a right to recover all the compensation and costs paid from the driver.
  5. If the vehicle was not registered at the time of the accident, then the Nominal Defendant may have a right to recover all the compensation and costs paid from the driver or owner of the vehicle.

Other injuries caused by your friend or family member:

Your family member or friend may have home and contents insurance over their home and general insurance over their boat or jetski, which will almost always have public liability insurance attached to them.

Normally, there is only a small excess payable on the insurance policy and the public liability insurer then takes over the conduct of the claim. Sometimes there is no excess payable at all.

Exceptions to the rule:

Your friend may not be covered by their public liability insurance if, for example:

  1. They were using a vehicle, machinery, equipment or property without the owner’s authority or without legal justification or excuse for using it.
  2. They intended to harm you or some other person (resulting in your injury).
  3. They were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the accident and their intoxication caused or contributed to the accident.
What is a spinal cord injury claim worth?

How much compensation or damages you will be entitled to receive is dependent on a lot of different factors, including:

  • The nature and extent of your spinal cord injury
  • What ongoing problems and needs you have as a result of your injury
  • What the doctors say about your restrictions and the degree of impairment you have
  • Whether you had pre-existing injuries or other conditions that were impacting on you, or were going to impact on you in the future
  • What restrictions and difficulties you look like having in the future, particularly with respect to your work capacity
  • What your income earning capacity was like pre-accident, compared to what your income earning capacity is now like
  • Your age, which impacts on how long you were going to work for and how long you will experience pain and suffering from your injuries
  • Your life expectancy
  • What treatment, care and support needs you have
  • Whether you have needed voluntary (unpaid) care and assistance as a result of your injuries and, if so, the nature and extent of that support
  • Whether you have needed paid care and support as a result of your injuries and, if so, the nature and extent of that support
  • Whether you have a need for home or vehicle alterations and other aids or equipment
  • How much ongoing treatment, medication and care and support you need in the future

Spinal cord injury claims often settle for millions of dollars.

How much will it cost in legal fees to bring a claim?

This depends on how much work is done. Every matter is different. Our hourly rates are extremely competitive. For more information on how we charge, click here.

Do I have to pay the insurer’s costs if I lose?

This is extremely unlikely. You only have to pay some of the insurer’s costs if you proceed to trial and lose completely or if you receive a judgment for less than what the insurer has previously offered to pay you.

The number of personal injury claims that actually proceed to trial is less than 2 in 100, so the chances of having to pay the insurer’s costs are very slim.  During the course of your claim, we will provide you with detailed advice about the quantum of your claim (what we believe a court would award you), so that you know what amount would constitute a reasonable settlement of your claim.

How does NIISQ work when you also have a CTP claim or workers’ compensation claim?

Car accidents (and other accidents on the road):

When you suffer a “serious personal injury” in a motor vehicle accident in Queensland, you are eligible to receive benefits from the National Injury Insurance Scheme (Queensland) (NIISQ).

You, your guardian or the hospital can lodge an “Application Form – Interim Participation” with NIISQ, who then make a determination in relation to your eligibility.  Once you are deemed eligible to receive NIIS benefits, NIISQ takes over the management of your reasonable treatment, care and support needs.

The Application for NIIS benefits can be lodged before or after your CTP claim is lodged. Often, it is lodged beforehand, but the CTP claim should then be lodged as soon as possible thereafter.

A CTP claim entitles you to recover additional heads of damage, over and above what NIISQ provides, including an amount for pain and suffering, loss of amenities and loss of enjoyment of life, past lost income, future lost income, past loss superannuation and future lost superannuation, which can be very significant. This is in addition to any amount required to compensate you for your treatment, care and support needs.

The CTP claim proceeds as normal whilst all treatment is being provided by NIISQ, although there is an option to opt out of NIISQ, which normally occurs around 2 years after the accident. We will assess your situation and provide you with advice on whether you should or should not opt out of NIISQ.

For more information on claims involving NIISQ click here.

Work accidents:

When you suffer a “serious personal injury” at work, a claim should be lodged for workers’ compensation benefits through WorkCover Queensland (or your employer’s self-insurer) (“WorkCover’).

WorkCover will then make a decision as to your eligibility to receive NIIS benefits under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld). If you have a “serious personal injury” and WorkCover does not automatically consider your eligibility to receive NIIS benefits, then you should ask them to do so. 

If WorkCover determines that you are eligible to receive NIIS benefits, they will engage the NIISQ Agency to manage your necessary and reasonable treatment, care and support needs.

A NIISQ Agency Support Planner will then liaise with you and your treatment providers to ensure that you are receiving all the necessary and reasonable treatment, care and support services that you need.

If your employer’s negligence caused or contributed to your spinal cord injury, then you would also be entitled to pursue a common law claim. A common law claim entitles you to recover additional heads of damage, over and above any NIIS benefits, including an amount for pain and suffering, loss of amenities and loss of enjoyment of life, past lost income, future lost income, past loss superannuation and future lost superannuation, which can be very significant. This is in addition to any amount required to compensate you for your treatment, care and support needs.

Your statutory workers’ compensation claim proceeds as normal whilst all treatment, care and support is being provided by NIISQ, although there is an option to opt out of NIISQ if and when you commence your common law claim. We will assess your situation and provide you with advice on whether you should or should not opt out of NIISQ.

For more information on claims involving NIISQ click here.

Do I have to pay tax on any compensation I receive?

No. In personal injury claims in Queensland we only claim net losses (after tax), so the ATO does not impose tax on any settlement monies. If, however, you invest those funds and earn income then you may well have to pay tax on that income. You should seek advice from your accountant or financial advisor in that regard.

During your free consultation, we will take steps to:

  • Determine exactly what injuries you have suffered;
  • Work out precisely how the accident occurred;
  • Decide whether someone else caused or significantly contributed to your accident;
  • Provide you with our opinion as to your prospects of success;
  • Discuss the claims process and what is involved;
  • Answer any questions you have about NIISQ and the NDIS;
  • Discuss what care and support services you require;
  • Determine what treatment and rehabilitation you need;
  • Ascertain what home modifications and transport modifications you might need;
  • Work out what aids and appliances you might need;
  • Discuss the steps that we need to take to get you all the care, support, treatment, modifications and aids that you need;
  • Discuss what costs will be involved with your claim; and
  • Respond to any questions that you might have in relation to your claim.