Expert Advice

Expertise on two sides of personal injury law

John Thistleton9 May 2019
Above, Senior Counsel Bill McCarthy. Below, Senior Associate Kate Meller.

Senior Associate Kate Meller and Senior Counsel Bill McCarthy.

Arising from accidents which cause serious injury, legal decisions can be confronting and as life-changing as the initial trauma. But there are two sides to every story.

Kate and Bill are part of the Litigation group at Bradley Allen Love Lawyers, Canberra and specialise in insurance and personal injury litigation. Their high-quality legal advice and representations to clients comes from years of experience, gained from both sides of cases – acting for claimants, and those defending claims.

One such claim occurred after one tumultuous injury in hospital and the injured person’s partner was required to be their legal guardian. Special counsel, Bill McCarthy, who acted against the hospital, recalls the case, where the legal guardian expected a quick but modest settlement which would have exacerbated their unforeseen circumstances.

Liability was in dispute and remained so until a private mediation resulted in a settlement for several million dollars. Just as well.

The injured person needed a high level of care, almost 24-hours-a-day, for life. “The settlement amount will need to be carefully invested to fulfil the future nursing care cost requirements,” Mr McCarthy said.

“The cost of specialist medical reports was in the tens of thousands but improved the quantum of damages at every turn,” he said.

Mr McCarthy’s experience gained over 30 years has helped deliver successful outcomes in cases involving motor vehicle and public liability accidents, workers compensation claims, and medical and dental negligence matters.

In many cases, he works on a no-win no-fee basis. For motor vehicle-related personal injury claims, no legal work is charged until a claim is settled.

In all cases, clients receive a cost estimate, provided as part of the written retainer agreement required under the Legal Profession Act 2006 (ACT).

Legal advice on a claim’s prospects is given to a client at the earliest opportunity. This may need to be updated with the discovery of further evidence that can affect the outcome of a claim.

Assessing a claim’s potential for amounts of money for damages depends on the information gathering process. This can include assessments by medical specialists that will respond to matters such as diagnosis and prognosis of injuries and disabilities, loss of amenity and enjoyment of life. Other matters to consider are work capacity, future out-of-pocket expenses and, for more severely injured clients, modifications to home and the need for domestic and nursing services.

Before joining BAL Lawyers, Senior Associate Kate Meller worked for 11 years for a national firm, acting for major insurance companies defending claims – that is, typically on the opposite side of the fence to Bill.

This involved defending personal injury claims arising out of workers’ compensation, motor vehicle, product liability and public liability claims. Each case involved different circumstances, issues and level of complexity.

“Properly reviewing the matter and preparing it for either an informal settlement conference, mediation or hearing is part of the usual litigation process,” Ms Meller says.

The right kind of evidence needs to be gathered, along with identifying any third parties who can be joined to the proceedings to minimise exposure and contribute to a defence.

A thorough investigation of the facts ensues. Medico-legal consultations are arranged with appropriate experts, as well as forensic accounts reports if economic loss is in dispute. Other investigations, such as surveillance, may be undertaken for doubtful claims or suspected fraud.

“Risk minimisation is important and early resolution of claims, if possible, is also preferable, unless the matter is highly contentious and involves multiple parties,” Ms Meller said.

Ms Meller’ssound insurance litigation knowledge and experience is applied in her considered and strategic advice to clients.

In one matter, Ms Meller acted for a defendant company on instructions from a public liability insurer client which resolved on very favourable terms. The plaintiff was seeking damages in excess of $1 million. “The matter was litigated in the ACT Supreme Court and the plaintiff ended up discontinuing their claim against my insurer client,” Ms Meller said.

The invitation is there to meet and speak with Bill and Kate, and the Litigation group at BAL Lawyers about insurance and personal injury litigation. Their ability to advise, with the benefit of their experience on opposite sides of the litigation, places them in a unique position to provide balanced advice in the ACT personal injury market.

Get to know them and get to know how they can help you – 02 6274 0980 or via the BAL Lawyers website.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on The RiotACT.

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