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

Updated on August 11, 2023 | 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, fascia, 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.

Garling & Co Lawyers

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...
Kimberly B.
23:14 14 Feb 24
Mathew is very knowledgable and has been of great assistance to me. All the staff are friendly and helpful. I'm so happy I found this firm.Thank you Mathew and team for your great work in my case.... I am 100% happy with what you achieved for me.read more
Julie M.
10:16 16 Jan 24
My last stage of Workers compensation claim was managed by Emma Perkins, Natasha Stojanovic, Rebecca Dunshea and Kelli Robinson at Garling and Co. Lawyers who went the extra mile with their service... from the beginning to the end of 3 years of my case. I have become very anxious with almost everything after a workplace injury and a lot of times I probably ask more questions than I need to, but Emma Perkins always finds clear answers to my questions in a short time and explains to me patiently even using her mealtime or between her meeting and make me feel that I have been very well take care and supported. I am so grateful and extremely satisfied. The excellent service, attitude, and culture of Metthew Garling and his team are second to none with a very high success rate. If you going to battle with your workplace injury for a short or long period, you are better off with Garling and Co. lawyers who are able back you up every step of the way. I strongly recommend it to anybody who needs their service like me. Julieread more
patrick P.
01:46 19 Dec 23
I like to say that I had a very wonderful experience,And the support, and also understanding with all my requests,I could not ask for a better team!Thank you Emma and also her assistant Rebecca... thank youread more
Kazi H.
13:38 13 Dec 23
Work cover fund is GOVT’S money but insurer think that it is from their 14th generation. So only they can have it. Not only that, people from the work, IME doctor from insurer, back to work... coordinator from work, Rehab provider from any side push the worker as hard as possible that the worker (doesn’t matter how the workers mental or psychical condition) either go back to his pre injury duty or leave the job.More over on that very bumpy any difficult journey some of them only treat the worker as a MONEY MAKING MECHINE .in some point worker feels like, no rooms to breath. On that moment need someone to support legally, someone to care, someone to relive.On my case I believe that, somehow, I manage to make my God happy. That’s why God sends me to Matthew Gerling and his team Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, and all of GARLING & co Lawyers.I am not good enough in English, can’t express my gratitude.Matthew, Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, please accept my appreciation and pass it to others.read more
Carol L.
01:32 29 Nov 23
Professional, understanding and friendly
Sean G.
23:21 14 Nov 23
Matthew Garling and everyone I spoke to at Garling and Co were kind, caring and compassionate. They were sensitive to my psychological condition and were patient in explaining everything to me, so... that I clearly understood the legal process. I am exceptionally grateful for the settlement outcome that Garling and Co obtained for me. Many thanks.read more
waqas A.
08:33 13 Nov 23
Great Experience with Garling & Co. Matthew explained everything in detail during the first appointment. Allison, Nathan, Rebecca and the staff have been extremely helpful. Thank You to the team and... lawyers at Garling & Co. for making the long process easy for me and getting an excellent outcome for my compensation claim.I would highly recommend Garling & Co. Lawyersread more
Saskia L.
21:42 08 Nov 23
The world of workers compensation is long, hard and confusing, but Emma and Rebecca at Garling & Co always treated my case with kindness, respect and understanding. No question was ever silly and... they always had time to make sure I knew what would happen next and how we could best prepare. I am so thankful for their expertise and could not have chosen anyone better to represent me.read more
Antonio P.
08:46 06 Nov 23
Thank you Matthew and his team for taking care of my case couldn’t ask for a better results and couldn’t have better team to do that thank you
Julie M.
00:40 06 Nov 23
Garlic & Co Lawyers have been wonderful, supporting me through some difficult times. With their assistance, positive outcomes were achieved. Many thanks to the Team.Julie
READ ALL TESTIMONIALS

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Kimberly B.
23:14 14 Feb 24
Mathew is very knowledgable and has been of great assistance to me. All the staff are friendly and helpful. I'm so happy I found this firm.Thank you Mathew and team for your great work in my case.... I am 100% happy with what you achieved for me.read more
Julie M.
10:16 16 Jan 24
My last stage of Workers compensation claim was managed by Emma Perkins, Natasha Stojanovic, Rebecca Dunshea and Kelli Robinson at Garling and Co. Lawyers who went the extra mile with their service... from the beginning to the end of 3 years of my case. I have become very anxious with almost everything after a workplace injury and a lot of times I probably ask more questions than I need to, but Emma Perkins always finds clear answers to my questions in a short time and explains to me patiently even using her mealtime or between her meeting and make me feel that I have been very well take care and supported. I am so grateful and extremely satisfied. The excellent service, attitude, and culture of Metthew Garling and his team are second to none with a very high success rate. If you going to battle with your workplace injury for a short or long period, you are better off with Garling and Co. lawyers who are able back you up every step of the way. I strongly recommend it to anybody who needs their service like me. Julieread more
patrick P.
01:46 19 Dec 23
I like to say that I had a very wonderful experience,And the support, and also understanding with all my requests,I could not ask for a better team!Thank you Emma and also her assistant Rebecca... thank youread more
Kazi H.
13:38 13 Dec 23
Work cover fund is GOVT’S money but insurer think that it is from their 14th generation. So only they can have it. Not only that, people from the work, IME doctor from insurer, back to work... coordinator from work, Rehab provider from any side push the worker as hard as possible that the worker (doesn’t matter how the workers mental or psychical condition) either go back to his pre injury duty or leave the job.More over on that very bumpy any difficult journey some of them only treat the worker as a MONEY MAKING MECHINE .in some point worker feels like, no rooms to breath. On that moment need someone to support legally, someone to care, someone to relive.On my case I believe that, somehow, I manage to make my God happy. That’s why God sends me to Matthew Gerling and his team Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, and all of GARLING & co Lawyers.I am not good enough in English, can’t express my gratitude.Matthew, Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, please accept my appreciation and pass it to others.read more
Carol L.
01:32 29 Nov 23
Professional, understanding and friendly
Sean G.
23:21 14 Nov 23
Matthew Garling and everyone I spoke to at Garling and Co were kind, caring and compassionate. They were sensitive to my psychological condition and were patient in explaining everything to me, so... that I clearly understood the legal process. I am exceptionally grateful for the settlement outcome that Garling and Co obtained for me. Many thanks.read more
waqas A.
08:33 13 Nov 23
Great Experience with Garling & Co. Matthew explained everything in detail during the first appointment. Allison, Nathan, Rebecca and the staff have been extremely helpful. Thank You to the team and... lawyers at Garling & Co. for making the long process easy for me and getting an excellent outcome for my compensation claim.I would highly recommend Garling & Co. Lawyersread more
Saskia L.
21:42 08 Nov 23
The world of workers compensation is long, hard and confusing, but Emma and Rebecca at Garling & Co always treated my case with kindness, respect and understanding. No question was ever silly and... they always had time to make sure I knew what would happen next and how we could best prepare. I am so thankful for their expertise and could not have chosen anyone better to represent me.read more
Antonio P.
08:46 06 Nov 23
Thank you Matthew and his team for taking care of my case couldn’t ask for a better results and couldn’t have better team to do that thank you
Julie M.
00:40 06 Nov 23
Garlic & Co Lawyers have been wonderful, supporting me through some difficult times. With their assistance, positive outcomes were achieved. Many thanks to the Team.Julie
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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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
The law society of nsw professional standards scheme logo.
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