A New Zealand law firm with extensive experience in personal injury cases has launched a service aimed at helping Kiwis living in New Zealand who have been injured in Australia.
Christchurch-based Jeff Goldstein, a specialist employment lawyer with his own practice called Goldstein Ryder, previously spent more than a decade in Sydney working as a personal injury lawyer on behalf of those injured.
When he came to New Zealand he maintained his professional links with a friend in Australia with whom he has worked on a number of cases on behalf of Kiwis. The differences between the compensation system in Australia compared to New Zealand are many and varied – although many Kiwis don’t know how much can be on offer and that payments can be made without compromising money from ACC.
“If people have recently been involved in a road traffic or other type of incident in Australia and suffered injuries or damage to their health, because of someone else’s careless or deliberate actions, they can be entitled to financial compensation,” said Jeff.
“These are people who have been injured while on holiday or working in Australia through no fault of their own and in many instances we can work with them to provide substantially more than is on offer here. It’s a service that doctors need to be aware of too, as this can ultimately relieve pressures on medical and associated services here.”
Mr Goldstein said the problem was that many Kiwis simply didn’t know where to start. “Starting with a phone call to us is easy; like most in the industry we work on a ‘No win, no fee’ basis and cover any reasonable costs until the case is won.
“Time is of the essence because claims have legal time limits and these can vary from state to state, but for those we’ve helped and the cases we’ve won it’s been unbelievably beneficial.
“People just don’t realise how costs can add up once they’re back in New Zealand, how long they might be off work or affected at work, and what that might mean to themselves and their business.”
Mr Goldstein said two recent compensation ‘wins’ were typical of incidents in Australia.
A 58-year-old Christchurch businessman and his wife, both of whom owned and ran their own businesses, were in Queensland for work when they were seriously injured in a two-car accident in a remote area.
The driver of the car that hit them head on, travelling on the wrong side of the road around a bend, jumped into another vehicle and drove off, leaving them lying severely injured on the road.
“We were completely totaled, hospitalised with severe injuries for which we later realised we didn’t have adequate insurance. We came home, my wife in a wheelchair at the time, to face a number of re-constructive surgeries and on-going procedures,” said the businessman.
“It was totally by coincidence that I went to see Jeff for some legal advice on other issues with my arm in a sling and he asked me what had happened.
“When he told us what we could do, we would have been mugs not to take his advice. It was certainly worthwhile although quite challenging, but I’d suggest that anyone in a similar situation should give Jeff their trust 100%.
“He was very, very professional and we were astounded by how much care he took, going through all the paperwork, sorting out the reports we needed, and lining up appointments. We weren’t burdened by any costs throughout the process although he did do a full disclosure of what those would be in the event of us succeeding, and we felt incredibly privileged to have him on our side.
“Even though we’d lost our businesses as a result of the accident and the Christchurch earthquakes, it was an amazing ending. We’re not money-hungry but the result gave us closure, meant justice was served, and was fair compensation for what we went through. It wasn’t a life-changing sum of money but both of us felt incredibly fortunate to have been so well served by Jeff.”
A thirty-six-year-old pricing analyst, also from Christchurch, had a similar experience.
On holiday on the Gold Coast, she took the stairs in her apartment block following a power cut, which meant the stairs were in darkness as the timers had not been re-set. She missed a step, slipped and fell, hitting her head on the concrete and severely spraining her ankle.
“I couldn’t walk for the rest of the holiday which completely ruined the whole break, and when I came home went through ACC to receive on-going physio. I talked to the resort owners about getting my hospital bills in Australia covered but they sent a whole lot of paperwork which required a lawyer’s sign off.
“That’s when I found Jeff who looked into it for me and found out they had effectively been negligent as a result of the lighting failure. I didn’t want to go to court, but I didn’t have to. There were a lot of conference calls with parties in Australia but Jeff was there to help.
“Many people find they have loopholes and sub-clauses in their travel insurance which means they’re not covered, so I was surprised and pretty happy to receive compensation that covered my costs and took into account loss of holiday time.”