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What is a "minor injury" under the new Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (an update)

Updated on February 14, 2022 | Published on June 18, 2019

By Matthew Garling

This information is for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents which occurred on or after 1 December 2017.

The type and amount of compensation you can claim depends in a large part on whether your injury is classified as a “minor injury” or not.

The Motor Accidents Injuries Act 2017 defines a minor injury as ‘a soft tissue injury, or a minor psychological or psychiatric injury’.

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You may be eligible for compensation if you have a minor injury.

Making a compensation claim

Once you have made a claim for personal injury benefits, the insurer will pay weekly payments of compensation if you are able to work and medical expenses for a period of up to 26 weeks.

Everyone who is injured in a motor vehicle accident, no matter whose fault, is entitled to payment of weekly compensation and medical expenses for a period of up to six months.

If you wish to receive weekly payments and medical expenses after 26 weeks, the insurer is required to decide in relation to your claim as to the following:

  1. Whether or not the motor vehicle accident was your fault or the fault of the other driver.
  2. Whether you have a “minor injury”.

The insurer usually makes this decision about 3 months after you have made the claim.

Payments after 26 weeks

To continue to receive statutory benefits of weekly compensation and medical expenses after 26 weeks and have an entitlement to make a common law claim for pain and suffering and loss of future income, it must be determined that:

  1. The accident was not your fault but the fault of the other driver; and
  2. That you do not have a “minor injury”.

What is a minor injury?

The Motor Accidents Injuries Act 2017 defines a minor injury as follows:

  1. Soft tissue injury.
  2. A minor psychological or psychiatric injury.

A soft tissue injury is defined as:

An injury to the tissues that connects, supports or surrounds other structures or organs of the body (such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, menisci, cartilage, facia, fibrosis tissues, fat, blood vessels and synovial membranes) but not an injury to nerves or a complete or partial rupture of tendons, ligaments, menisci or cartilage.

The regulations add the following:

An injury to a spinal nerve root that manifests in neurological signs (other than radiculopathy) is included as a soft tissue injury.

A minor psychological or psychiatric injury is defined as:

A psychological or psychiatric injury that is not a recognised psychiatric illness.

This means that if you have sustained PTSD or an adjustment disorder as a result of a motor vehicle accident, this is a recognised psychiatric injury and therefore is not a minor injury.

If you disagree with the decision, made by the insurer, about whether or not you have a minor injury you can refer the matter to Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) to resolve this dispute. The DRS will appoint an independent assessor to make a binding decision.

Examples of Minor Injury Decisions

There have now been a number of decisions made by the DRS in relation to what constitutes a minor injury and here are some examples:

  • The claimant was a front seat passenger in a vehicle. The traffic lights which was rear-ended by another car. The claimant reported a brief loss of consciousness, was taken to hospital by ambulance. The claimant subsequently consulted a general practitioner and had pain in the right side of the neck, low back, right leg and right knee. The claimant underwent 18 sessions of physiotherapy and continued to consult his general practitioner.

On examination, the claimant was found to have a reduced range of motion in the neck but no muscle spasm or guarding, a reduced range of motion in the lumbar spine but with no muscle spasm or guarding and no neurological symptoms.

The claimant was diagnosed as suffering soft tissue injury to the cervical spine, right shoulder, low back, left chest and right knee. There was no radiculopathy present. The claimant was found to have a minor injury as it satisfied the definition of minor injury in that all injuries sustained were soft tissue and there were no neurological signs such as radiculopathy present.

The claimant was therefore only entitled to weekly payments and medical expenses for a period of 6 months.

  • The claimant was again involved in a rear end motor vehicle accident reporting immediate neck pain with radiation of pain across both shoulders and into the upper back. The DRS assessor found that the claimant had sustained a whiplash injury to the cervical and upper thoracic spine with referred symptoms into the left and right shoulder region. There was no evidence of radiculopathy or any neurological condition. There was no injury involving any torn ligaments, tendons or nerves.

This was considered a minor injury as it was soft tissue only.

From a physical perspective to have more than a minor injury there needs to an injury involving torn ligaments, tendons or nerve damage such as radiculopathy. Scarring and other bodily disfigurements, any eye injury, hearing loss, organ damage or fracture/broken bone will be enough to qualify as more than a minor injury.

However, any spine injury that does not produce radiculopathy, that is, nerve damage, does not and will be considered a minor injury. Such spinal injuries are considered “soft tissue”.

The definition is harsh and people with serious injuries will often not qualify for benefits after 26 weeks or Common Law claims as they will be classified as having a minor injury.

In relation to psychological injuries the following example is helpful:

  • A claim involved a claimant who was driving with his family. As the claimant slowed down and indicated to turn left, a vehicle collided with a rear of their car. The claimant lost control of the car and spun around to face another vehicle which collided with the claimant’s car. The claimant was concerned with the welfare of his family members and was subsequently transported to hospital with soft tissue injury.

The claimant subsequently consulted his general practitioner with complaints of stiff neck, pain, headaches and insomnia. The claimant was referred to a physiotherapist and treated with analgesic medication. The physical injuries were considered minor injuries as they were soft tissue in nature.

The claimant however also had a psychological condition as he was suffering from intrusive and recurrent memories of the accident, flashbacks, disturbed sleep, irritability, persistent thoughts of self-blame and guilt, fluctuating appetitive, poor energy and lack of motivation and unable to drive due to increased anxiety.

The initial diagnoses was one of an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood. Subsequently, a diagnosis was made of post-traumatic stress disorder.

An acute stress disorder or an adjustment disorder is considered to be a minor psychological or psychiatric injury.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not considered to be a minor injury. Whilst the claimant’s condition had originally begun as an acute stress reaction, it had developed into post-traumatic stress disorder and therefore was not considered to be a minor injury.

The insurer’s decision as to whether the injury is a minor injury can be challenged through the Dispute Resolution Service.

You will need the assistance of an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law to assist in making this application to DRS as it may require obtaining medical evidence from your treating doctors to assist in determining whether the injury is a minor or non-minor injury.

Legal costs for challenging an insurer’s decision through the DRS are paid for directly by the insurer.

Matthew Garling

Matthew Garling is an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law approved by New South Wales Law Society. He is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of NSW and the High Court of Australia. Matthew is also a member of...
Yanthi S.
01:51 18 May 22
I engaged with Garling and Co to assist me for my weekly payment dispute with the insurance. I was upset with Natasha, as she didn't prepare me to the worse outcome or kind of negotiation in the... hearing. I assumed that as a Lawyer she should experience with the process or the way to solve the case. Even though I asked her what should I do or what would be happened in the hearing a week before but she didn't mentioned anything, and told me not do anything. But in the hearing she and the Arbitrator only gave me less than 5 minute to make decision and pushed me to accept the disappointed outcome and what she said totally different with what she said earlier. I don't trust her at all, her words is not consistent.I would like to express my appreciation to Matthew Garling who had stepped in to handle my weekly payment issue with the insurance. He is very professional, knowledgeable, easy to talk to and very humble. My disappointment earlier has melted away by his kindness and caring to resolve my issue which has came out the great outcome. Now I am satisfied with his expertise therefore I would not hesitate to let him to handle the case I might have in the future.read more
Lynda S
00:34 04 May 22
For such complicated matters, it is extremely important to have a good team in your corner. The right team.Garling and co is just that and much more.They listen to you and care. They support you... during the entire process. You will have so many questions and they always return your calls and reply to your emails.Thank you so much to Renee, who explained everything to me and what to expect in details and really reassured me. The process felt less heavy and stressful because she was there. She was professional and so efficient. She took over my case from previous lawyer and I wish I could have met her first. She was available to answer the many questions I had along the way. There is also Kelli, she was the first person I got on the phone most of the time when I called and she is nice and very helpful, I had so many questions and doubts, I was stressed yet she had the patience to explain and seek answers to my questions.Natasha took over my case towards the end and she also was great in listening and supporting me and made sure to defend my best interests against the other side at all time.The Worker’s compensation process is very stressful, it can last for a long period. In my case it was three years and it is to the upmost importance to have people who treats you well, are professional and efficient.I am very satisfied with the outcome and I hope that this reviews helps the next person.Your assistance made the difference and I would have not been able to do it without your precious help.read more
Melinda B.
23:57 04 Apr 22
Workers compensation and the medical-legal process is a complicated and a difficult process.If you are looking for a highly professional compensation/personal injury lawyer, I would without... hesitation definitely recommend Matthew Garling who is a genuine, caring & dedicated lawyer.Matthew, Allison Luck and co. are extremely professional, clear and concise with all communication and an exceptional support during the whole process of my claim, I felt confident and secure that I had made the right decision having Matthew represent me, they worked tirelessly and where 100% committed to getting me the best possible outcome.My case was complicated and Matthew never gave up fighting for me, he didn’t just take the first option for a quick and easy resolution.He and his team got me the best possible outcome for my WPI and I will be forever grateful for their hard work and diligence. I now have peace of mind knowing I have lifetime medical assistance and payment till retirement age.read more
Jim M.
12:25 27 Mar 22
Garling and Co lawyers you have done again with Success for my TPD claim! Ms. Emma Perkins and her team have assisted my TPD claim with great success after the hard work, She is a very down-to-earth... person, professional, and highly knowledgeable with insurance claim law. She is very approachable and always willing to help and often reply my question of email after business hours. I will most delighted to recommend Garling and Co Lawyers. Ms. Emma Perkins and her team to any person who needs insurance claim law service like me. by Julieread more
Anthony N
22:13 17 Mar 22
I had Garling & Co Lawyers handle my workplace dispute, I could not be happier with the outcome, handled in such a professional way with excellent communication throughout the entire process.Natasha... and Kelli were very understanding in every aspect, requesting information via phone or email was never an issue, fast response times and helpful in every way. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the team @ Garling & Co Lawyers. 👍read more
Yvonne M.
05:03 21 Jan 22
Zee
14:20 15 Jan 22
I would like to thank the entire team at Garling and Co for being in my corner throughout the worst years I've experienced in my life.I chose Garling and Co in the end after being seriously injured... at work and needing representation, something I should have done years prior.I met with over 12 other legal firms in Sydney. Large,medium, small and all in between. Some were friends, some family, some were sharks, many were pressuring, many promised the world, Matthew was not like that.Matthew was the benchmark as he was one of the first I spoke with and ultimately he stood out in the end as I felt he was the most genuine.From the outset to the conclusion, I found Matthew to be very polite, easy to communicate with and extremely down to earth.He explained everything simply, he had answers for any questions along the way. He told me it how it was, not just what I wanted to hear.Matthew is a genuine nice guy that runs a very efficient and professional law firm. I made the correct choice engaging him in my claims and would not hesitate in recommending him.Renee was also terrific in handling my TPD claim which was literally finalised faster then international postage.Allison, Rebecca and Kelli were all great, always.Thanks again Garling and Co.read more
mark S.
06:30 23 Dec 21
I found from my very first meeting With Matthew that he was upfront honest and to the point . He thoroughly investigated my claim and we agreed too proceed.The staff at Garling and Co are wonderful... and helpful and I was kept informed and upto date from day one till the end .They made me feel confident and secure and I know I had the best team possible for my best outcome .I can’t thank Matthew and the team for their wonderful serviceread more
Daniel F.
08:48 10 Nov 21
My wife suffered psychological injury.Never having similar experience she had to get legal advice.Workers compensation law is complex and she needed someone to help her navigate her way through.... There are many compensation lawyers but not all with enough experience and strong reputation . We have finally decided to go with Matthew and his team based on the independent website reviews .Looking back now we have made the right choice .There is lot of hurdles and having trustworthy lawyer with great communication skills on your side can make huge difference .My wife can now try to move on with the compensation she deserved.Thanks to Matthew ,Allison ,Emma,Rebecca and rest of the team. Thank you again.Daniel and Veerayaread more
K B.
07:35 28 Oct 21
When you work for an employer for a number of decades and suffer a debilitating injury, you expect compassion, support and belief that you are genuine. When you don’t get that and then also have to... deal with Workers Compensation Insurers it slowly breaks you.That's when you need amazing support like Matthew Garling and his team. From my first meeting with Matthew I was confident I was referred to the right guy. I couldn’t be more pleased with my outcome. Matthew is the Guru of workers compensation, he is professional, easy to work with, nothings a bother and most importantly he gets great results. Do not think twice about using Garling and Co Lawyers.Thank you Matthew, Renee, Allison and Kelli for your invaluable support.read more
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Yanthi S.
01:51 18 May 22
I engaged with Garling and Co to assist me for my weekly payment dispute with the insurance. I was upset with Natasha, as she didn't prepare me to the worse outcome or kind of negotiation in the... hearing. I assumed that as a Lawyer she should experience with the process or the way to solve the case. Even though I asked her what should I do or what would be happened in the hearing a week before but she didn't mentioned anything, and told me not do anything. But in the hearing she and the Arbitrator only gave me less than 5 minute to make decision and pushed me to accept the disappointed outcome and what she said totally different with what she said earlier. I don't trust her at all, her words is not consistent.I would like to express my appreciation to Matthew Garling who had stepped in to handle my weekly payment issue with the insurance. He is very professional, knowledgeable, easy to talk to and very humble. My disappointment earlier has melted away by his kindness and caring to resolve my issue which has came out the great outcome. Now I am satisfied with his expertise therefore I would not hesitate to let him to handle the case I might have in the future.read more
Lynda S
00:34 04 May 22
For such complicated matters, it is extremely important to have a good team in your corner. The right team.Garling and co is just that and much more.They listen to you and care. They support you... during the entire process. You will have so many questions and they always return your calls and reply to your emails.Thank you so much to Renee, who explained everything to me and what to expect in details and really reassured me. The process felt less heavy and stressful because she was there. She was professional and so efficient. She took over my case from previous lawyer and I wish I could have met her first. She was available to answer the many questions I had along the way. There is also Kelli, she was the first person I got on the phone most of the time when I called and she is nice and very helpful, I had so many questions and doubts, I was stressed yet she had the patience to explain and seek answers to my questions.Natasha took over my case towards the end and she also was great in listening and supporting me and made sure to defend my best interests against the other side at all time.The Worker’s compensation process is very stressful, it can last for a long period. In my case it was three years and it is to the upmost importance to have people who treats you well, are professional and efficient.I am very satisfied with the outcome and I hope that this reviews helps the next person.Your assistance made the difference and I would have not been able to do it without your precious help.read more
Melinda B.
23:57 04 Apr 22
Workers compensation and the medical-legal process is a complicated and a difficult process.If you are looking for a highly professional compensation/personal injury lawyer, I would without... hesitation definitely recommend Matthew Garling who is a genuine, caring & dedicated lawyer.Matthew, Allison Luck and co. are extremely professional, clear and concise with all communication and an exceptional support during the whole process of my claim, I felt confident and secure that I had made the right decision having Matthew represent me, they worked tirelessly and where 100% committed to getting me the best possible outcome.My case was complicated and Matthew never gave up fighting for me, he didn’t just take the first option for a quick and easy resolution.He and his team got me the best possible outcome for my WPI and I will be forever grateful for their hard work and diligence. I now have peace of mind knowing I have lifetime medical assistance and payment till retirement age.read more
Jim M.
12:25 27 Mar 22
Garling and Co lawyers you have done again with Success for my TPD claim! Ms. Emma Perkins and her team have assisted my TPD claim with great success after the hard work, She is a very down-to-earth... person, professional, and highly knowledgeable with insurance claim law. She is very approachable and always willing to help and often reply my question of email after business hours. I will most delighted to recommend Garling and Co Lawyers. Ms. Emma Perkins and her team to any person who needs insurance claim law service like me. by Julieread more
Anthony N
22:13 17 Mar 22
I had Garling & Co Lawyers handle my workplace dispute, I could not be happier with the outcome, handled in such a professional way with excellent communication throughout the entire process.Natasha... and Kelli were very understanding in every aspect, requesting information via phone or email was never an issue, fast response times and helpful in every way. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the team @ Garling & Co Lawyers. 👍read more
Yvonne M.
05:03 21 Jan 22
Zee
14:20 15 Jan 22
I would like to thank the entire team at Garling and Co for being in my corner throughout the worst years I've experienced in my life.I chose Garling and Co in the end after being seriously injured... at work and needing representation, something I should have done years prior.I met with over 12 other legal firms in Sydney. Large,medium, small and all in between. Some were friends, some family, some were sharks, many were pressuring, many promised the world, Matthew was not like that.Matthew was the benchmark as he was one of the first I spoke with and ultimately he stood out in the end as I felt he was the most genuine.From the outset to the conclusion, I found Matthew to be very polite, easy to communicate with and extremely down to earth.He explained everything simply, he had answers for any questions along the way. He told me it how it was, not just what I wanted to hear.Matthew is a genuine nice guy that runs a very efficient and professional law firm. I made the correct choice engaging him in my claims and would not hesitate in recommending him.Renee was also terrific in handling my TPD claim which was literally finalised faster then international postage.Allison, Rebecca and Kelli were all great, always.Thanks again Garling and Co.read more
mark S.
06:30 23 Dec 21
I found from my very first meeting With Matthew that he was upfront honest and to the point . He thoroughly investigated my claim and we agreed too proceed.The staff at Garling and Co are wonderful... and helpful and I was kept informed and upto date from day one till the end .They made me feel confident and secure and I know I had the best team possible for my best outcome .I can’t thank Matthew and the team for their wonderful serviceread more
Daniel F.
08:48 10 Nov 21
My wife suffered psychological injury.Never having similar experience she had to get legal advice.Workers compensation law is complex and she needed someone to help her navigate her way through.... There are many compensation lawyers but not all with enough experience and strong reputation . We have finally decided to go with Matthew and his team based on the independent website reviews .Looking back now we have made the right choice .There is lot of hurdles and having trustworthy lawyer with great communication skills on your side can make huge difference .My wife can now try to move on with the compensation she deserved.Thanks to Matthew ,Allison ,Emma,Rebecca and rest of the team. Thank you again.Daniel and Veerayaread more
K B.
07:35 28 Oct 21
When you work for an employer for a number of decades and suffer a debilitating injury, you expect compassion, support and belief that you are genuine. When you don’t get that and then also have to... deal with Workers Compensation Insurers it slowly breaks you.That's when you need amazing support like Matthew Garling and his team. From my first meeting with Matthew I was confident I was referred to the right guy. I couldn’t be more pleased with my outcome. Matthew is the Guru of workers compensation, he is professional, easy to work with, nothings a bother and most importantly he gets great results. Do not think twice about using Garling and Co Lawyers.Thank you Matthew, Renee, Allison and Kelli for your invaluable support.read more
University of Technology, Sydney
Member of Law Society of New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Specialist Accreditation
University of Sydney
Legal Profession Admission Board of New South Wales
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