If you are injured in a road accident or at work in Victoria – at the fault of another road user or your employer – there are requirements that must be met before you can sue for damages. In this Legal GP blog, Mark Ryan unpacks the definition of ‘serious injury’ and ‘negligence’ for a better understanding of the pathway to suing for damages. Read on.

When you’re injured because of the actions of another party – for example, another road user hits you or your employer does not introduce appropriate safety procedures – this renders the other party negligent. Even if you believe you have grounds to sue, there remains a significant pre-condition to meet before you can take legal action. Your injury must be assessed as serious. If not considered a serious injury, no matter how negligent the other party may have been, you cannot sue for damages.

Serious injury is defined as having, or including the following categories:

  1. Permanent serious impairment or loss of a body function; or
  2. Permanent serious disfigurement; or
  3. Permanent severe mental or permanent severe behavioural disturbance or disorder; or
  4. Loss of a foetus.

Categories 1, 2 and 3 are focused on the words serious and severe. The meaning and scope of these words are decided by case law. There are many factors that need to be considered in defining the severity of injuries, including how the injury has impacted on the individual’s ability to work, perform everyday functions, participate in sport, leisure and home activities. In the case of mental injury, severe is interpreted as greater than serious.

Serious has been interpreted as ‘very considerable’ at the least, and ‘significant’ or ‘marked’ at most. The test is subjective, as the injury’s impact on each individual must be considered. The same injury may be serious for some and not for others. For example, impaired hands or fingers would undoubtedly be serious for Elton John but not necessarily for Mick Jagger.

The process of establishing serious injury opens the gateway to proving others’ negligence and suing for damages. If you would like to learn more about these definitions, distinctions or feel you may have a case on your hands, do not hesitate to get in touch with Mark Ryan and the Legal GP – we’re #HereToHelp.

To note: These requirements only apply to road and workplace injuries and not to public liability cases.