Motor accident funeral expenses
Belinda Cassidy has written an article for the Australian Funeral Director’s Association about the availability of funeral expenses for the families of people killed in motor vehicle accidents. Belinda explains a little bit more about this new benefit below –
One of the KPIs of a motor accident compulsory insurance scheme would have to be the price of the premium and for the NSW Government running the current scheme for the 5 million people in NSW who buy a Green Slip insurance policy every year, having a price lower than it was a few years ago, or lower than other States and Territories of Australia would be desirable.
But the other side of the compulsory insurance scheme is the compensation and benefits that are paid out to those killed or injured on the roads of NSW and the KPIs for that part of the scheme are much harder to determine.
I have always thought that the delivery of funeral benefits to families of the deceased would be one of the easiest KPIs to develop, monitor and report on. For a start, road deaths are known, easy to track and record. The NSW Centre for Road Safety provides up to date statistics on road deaths and so we know that last year 353 people lost their lives on NSW roads (down from 389 in 2017).
The NSW Government’s current motor accident scheme creates a statutory entitlement to reasonable funeral expenses for everyone killed in a motor vehicle accident on or after 1 December 2017 regardless of whether they were totally innocent, partly at fault or wholly at fault and regardless of their part in the accident (pedestrian, cyclist, car or truck driver). The only possible exception is persons charged with or convicted of a serious driving offence (unlikely if they are deceased) and persons injured in a motor vehicle accident while at work (because they cannot make claims under both the workers compensation and motor accident schemes).
So, if 353 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in NSW last year, there should be 353 funerals paid for by the NSW third party insurers (less funerals for people killed while at work).
The State Insurance Regulatory Authority’s most recently published scheme performance interim report says that, as of 30 June 2018, 5,137 claims for statutory benefits had been made, but does not separate out statutory funeral benefit claims although the report indicates that $666,630 had been paid out for funeral expenses. That same report identifies that 81 common law claims for compensation to dependants (under the Compensation to Relatives Act) have been made. It is therefore not clear whether all people entitled to claim funeral expenses are in fact claiming them. Anecdotal evidence from fellow legal practitioners suggest a lack of awareness that funeral expenses are now payable on a no-fault basis and reports from clients suggests some misinformation from police and hospital personnel.
I am doing my best to draw attention to the availability of these benefits by firstly telling everyone I know and secondly by writing to the people who I know can help – the Funeral Directors Association of Australia. Their latest magazine includes an article written by me on the availability of funeral expenses for motor vehicle accident in all States and territories of Australia with a summary of the new NSW benefits.
When someone is killed in a car accident, the last thing their family wants is to have to worry about finding the money to lay their loved one to rest. They don’t need to worry because the price of your Green Slip covers the cost of the funeral they need and want. And that is what the Government’s new scheme is all about.
 Section 3.4 of the Motor Accident Injuries Act
 The NSW workers compensation scheme provides for payment of funeral expenses up to the sum of $15,000.
Written by Belinda Cassidy
Belinda Cassidy holds the position of Special Counsel at Stacks Goudkamp. She had previously held the position of Principal Claims Assessor at the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) for 18 years, and currently holds an appointment as a Claims Assessor under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act.