The Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (MAIA) in NSW introduced significant changes to the compensation scheme for motor vehicle accidents. One crucial aspect of the MAIA is the concept of “threshold” and “non-threshold” injuries. The purpose of the threshold is to differentiate between minor injuries and more severe injuries, which warrant additional support and compensation. In this article, we will explore what threshold injuries are and their significance within the context of the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017.

Defining Threshold Injuries

A ”threshold” injury is basically a minor or soft tissue injury, or a psychiatric injury which is not a recognised psychiatric illness. The MAIA sets out specific criteria at section 1.6 of the Act to define a threshold injury:

1.6 Meaning of “threshold injury”
(1) For the purposes of this Act, a
“threshold injury” is, subject to this section, one or more of the following–
(a) a soft tissue injury,
(b) a psychological or psychiatric injury that is not a recognised psychiatric illness.(2) A “soft tissue injury” is (subject to this section) an injury to tissue that connects, supports or surrounds other structures or organs of the body (such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, menisci, cartilage, fascia, fibrous 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.

Non-threshold injuries

Non-threshold injuries refer to more severe injuries. These injuries must surpass a specific threshold level to qualify for additional benefits under the compensation scheme. Examples of non-threshold physical injuries may include fractures, nerve injuries, complete or partial rupture of a tendon, cartilage, meniscus or ligament, or damage to the spinal nerve root that meets the criteria for radiculopathy.

Examples of non-threshold psychological or psychiatric injuries may include a diagnosed psychiatric disorder or illness such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or any other psychological or psychiatric illness recognise under the DSM IV. However, adjustment disorder and acute stress disorder as specifically excluded as non-threshold injuries.

Significance of Threshold and Non-Threshold Injuries under the MAIA

Meeting the threshold for a “seriously injured” or non-threshold designation under the MAIA has several implications.
Injured people with threshold injuries (or minor, soft tissue injuries) are only covered for benefits under the scheme for the first 52 weeks after the accident. These benefits include payments for wage loss, medical and rehab expenses and domestic care. There is no entitlement following this 52 week period.

On the other hand, those with more serious “ non-threshold injuries” have far greater entitlements and entitlements which extend well beyond 52 weeks post-accident. Entitlements include payments for loss of income, medical and rehab expenses, domestic care PLUS possible damages for pain and suffering and economic loss under a common law claim. These damages can be significant.

Threshold and non-threshold injuries play an important role within the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017, distinguishing between minor injuries and severe, life-altering injuries. Meeting the criteria for a non- threshold injury under the MAIA provides access to additional benefits and support for individuals who have sustained significant and permanent impairments. It is important to understand the concept of threshold injuries and non-threshold injuries for this reason. The difference between a threshold and non-threshold injury can be complicated. It is advisable to seek advice upon the lodgement of your motor vehicle accident claim.