Personal injury problems: new insights from the Legal Australia-Wide Survey

Christine Coumarelos, Genevieve M. Grant, Zhigang Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Traditional sources of data give only partial insight into the nature of legal problems related to injury. These data sources typically say little about personal injury that does not result in hospitalisation or in compensation or claims processes. The present paper uses data from the Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey, a population-level survey, to shed light on four different types of personal injury problems that are likely to be ‘justiciable’ or have legal aspects – problems associated with motor vehicle injury, work-related injury, product injury and injury due to other negligence. The paper estimates the prevalence of these different types of personal injury problems, their severity, their links to other legal and non-legal problems, and people’s responses to them. The findings reveal the distinctive nature of each type of personal injury problem. They are associated with different demographic profiles and different responses. Importantly, personal injury problems are relatively common, can be severe and are often not stand-alone problems. They are connected to the experience of other legal problems and can have considerable negative knock-on effects on broader life circumstances beyond the original injury.

The results highlight the value of the effective legal resolution of personal injury problems. They suggest the potential benefit of broad legal diagnosis and coordination between legal advisers to manage the interconnection between personal injury problems and other legal problems. The results also indicate that coordination between legal and non-legal professionals may be beneficial, with the potential for referral in both directions. Health professionals are well placed to notice that injury problems may have legal implications and to act as gateways to legal advice. In addition, the adverse knock-on effects of personal injury problems on broader health, social and financial circumstances suggests that legal clients may benefit from broader support from human services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
JournalJustice Issues
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Injury compensation systems
  • Legal need
  • access to justice

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