Litigation Assistance Fund reaches $200 million milestone
01 June 2018
The Law Society’s legal assistance charity has helped deliver $200 million in compensation to victims.
was reached after lawyers successfully negotiated a settlement for a man
who suffered a devastating brain injury in a motor vehicle accident.
Assistance Fund (LAF) was established in 1992 to help recover damages
for people who otherwise could not afford to pursue their claim.
The LAF is a
non-profit service that pays for lawyers to represent people with
meritorious claims. The types of claims the LAF funds include medical
negligence claims, sexual assault claims, motor vehicle accident injury
claims, estate disputes, public liability claims, false imprisonment
claims and many other civil disputes.
fund, many people who have suffered physical, emotional or financial
trauma would have had no way to receive the compensation they deserve,”
Law Society President Tim Mellor said.
operation of the fund relies on South Australian lawyers working on a
pro bono basis to assess the merits of each claim and the means of the
client to determine whether the case can be funded.
The fund has a
self-financing model, in that when a supported case is successful, the
fund recoups its expenditure from the damages and costs awards achieved,
and also receives an “uplift” amount. This revenue is used solely for
the ongoing operation of the fund. The LAF receives no government monies
Also, when a
supported case is not successful, LAF does not seek any reimbursement.
This can empower solicitors and clients to investigate and prosecute
meritorious legal action without the threat of crippling debt if the
case does not succeed.
To satisfy the
means test, an applicant can have a family income of up to $150,000 and
assets of “reasonable” value, including a house and a car.
representation for civil matters is out of reach for many Australians,
even many middle-income earners,” Mr Mellor said.
health system which has Medicare, only 8% of Australians would be
eligible for legal aid, and that only covers some criminal and family
law matters. Services such as the Litigation Assistance Fund, community
legal centres and JusticeNet try to fill the gap.”
Some of the claimants assisted by LAF include:
- a child who developed cerebral palsy as a result of complications during birth, requiring life-long 24-hour care;
- a man who was sexually abused as a child by members of a religious institution;
- a victim of excessive use of force by police; and
- a sufferer of a psychiatric condition brought about by relentless school bullying.