What are ‘non-economic losses’ in ACT car accident compensation cases?

Published 03 Jul 2017

Author: Gerard Malouf

Car accidents remain a significant threat to road user safety in the ACT, with government statistics showing an average of more than 20 crashes every day in the territory in 2015.

The number of reported incidents has stayed relatively consistent over the last 10 years, despite a 25 per cent increase of vehicles on the road and 22.1 per cent more trips taking place during the morning rush hour peak.

Nevertheless, there were 636 crashes that resulted in injuries in 2015, which means hundreds of people may have been eligible to claim compensation if they were hurt because of a motor accident.

‘Economic’ versus ‘non-economic’ losses

Motor vehicle accident compensation can be claimed for a range of costs that arise from injuries, such as past and future medical bills, care support and other treatments. Any loss of income or superannuation, both past and future, can also be covered.

These are known as ‘economic’ losses. However, if you are in a serious accident, you may also be eligible for ‘non-economic’ losses. Otherwise known as ‘general damages’, non-economic losses are designed to compensate people for less tangible problems they may develop following a traumatic experience such as a car crash.

Common examples of non-economic losses are ‘pain and suffering’, ‘loss of enjoyment of life’ and ‘disfigurement’. Placing a figure on some of these concepts can be challenging, but it may result in a significant rise in the size of the settlement you receive.

Not everyone is eligible for non-economic losses, however, and your injuries must meet a minimum threshold.

Whole Person Impairment (WPI) limit

Medical practitioners will examine you to assess your level of WPI to see whether you’re entitled to make a claim for general damages.

You must be evaluated as having a WPI of greater than 10 per cent, which typically means you have lasting signs of injuries and potential neurological symptoms. Doctors will also take into account mental health and how your injuries affect your day-to-day life.

WPI scores can be an area of contention in motor accident compensation cases, particularly if psychological factors are present, as these are often harder to diagnose and measure than physical symptoms.