Maddens Lawyers



March 22nd, 2017 by


Clients and sub contractors of Watersun Homes left reeling after the company’s recent collapse may have access to a rescue fund to complete or fix their incomplete projects or recover payments.

Maddens Lawyers, a Victorian law firm with extensive experience negotiating insurance payouts, is pointing devastated Watersun home owners to the Domestic Building Insurance Policy (DBI) to help meet the inevitable costs of fixing the issues caused by the company’s voluntary administration last month.

Watersun Homes left around 300 homes incomplete when they appointed administrators last week. It’s also been reported that as much as $5 million is owed to sub-contractors.

Maddens Lawyers Senior Partner Brendan Pendergast explained the DBI was a mandatory policy for all building projects over the value of $16,000, that was taken out by the building company and came into play as soon as a contract was executed or building permit issued.

“DBI cover exists for situations exactly like this – when a company is insolvent, or for incomplete works on a building.

“This cover also allows for certain out-of-pocket expenses, like storage expenses while an owner is waiting for works to be completed, or accommodation costs.”

Mr Pendergast also noted that around 1,000 creditors had been impacted by Watersun’s recent administration and that sub-contractors had been hardest hit.  Approximately $5 million of payments owed to sub-contractors were yet to be paid, he said.

“It may be open to sub-contractors to make a demand for progress payments under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act or make a claim for loss through their own business insurance,” Mr Pendergast advised.

Mr Pendergast said his firm’s experience with insurance providers was that getting the maximum amount possible out of a policy was a complex task – and that it was common for policy holders to end up with less than what they were entitled to.

“It is not unusual for people to encounter difficulties or uncertainties with the insurance claim process,” he said. “Maximising a payout can be something of a skill… almost all insurance policies are written in order to make this a tricky process that favours the insurance company over the policy holder.”

A detailed understanding of the insurance industry’s “peculiarities” was the best way to ensure the maximum amount payable was extracted – including compensation for legal fees, Mr Pendergast said.

“The DBI policy also makes provision for reasonable legal fees – so seeking the help of a lawyer is a low-risk situation for a home owner looking to find the financial means to bring their dream home to completion,” he said.

Mr Pendergast encouraged impacted property owners or sub-contractors to contact Maddens Lawyers for assistance by telephoning 1800 815 228 or lodging an inquiry online.


February 21st, 2017 by


The Jack River Bushfire Class Action has drawn to a close, with final compensation payments being made to all group members a day before the third anniversary of the fire.

Maddens Lawyers distributed more than $8 million in compensation cheques to over 30 registrants, covering the final compensation payment for loss and damage suffered in the February 9 2014 Jack River bushfire.

Maddens Lawyers launched the class action in September 2014, in response to the fire that earlier on 9 February that year burnt 5000 hectares between Jack River and Madalya, west of the Gippsland township of Yarram.

The fire started after trees clashed with a powerline north west of the Egans Road and Yarram-Morwell Road intersection on the morning of February 9.

The Supreme Court of Victoria approved the settlement at the end of 2016 and the distribution of compensation to those involved was completed on Wednesday 8 February 2017.

Registrants’ compensation covered more than 75% of their assessed loss and damage.

Maddens Lawyers Class Action Principal Brendan Pendergast said the mailing of the cheques marked the final stage of the Jack River 2015 Bushfire Class Action and that, in terms of legal action such as this, was an efficient and timely result.

“In the end, we were able to achieve a good result for the claimants, and secure as much compensation as possible for their loss.”


December 13th, 2016 by


The law firm that led four Black Saturday bushfire class actions has now launched a class action on behalf of victims of a Scotsburn fire that last year burnt more than 4000 hectares and 12 houses.

 Maddens Lawyers Senior Partner and bushfire compensation expert Brendan Pendergast said his firm, which has successfully settled several bushfire-related class actions on behalf of hundreds of fire victims, was confident those who lost property in the 19 December 2015 fire had a strong case for compensation.

The 2015 Scotsburn fire broke out around 3pm on Saturday 19 December when a Finns Road paddock was being slashed by a local landowner. The Scotsburn resident, Roger Skimming, has since been convicted of failing to carry adequate fire-fighting equipment on the tractor he was using, which the court found could have suppressed the blaze before it took off.

Mr Pendergast said his firms’ investigations led them to believe fire victims had a strong case for compensation to cover uninsured losses. “Our early investigations, combined with our experience in bushfire litigation, tells us there is certainly a case worth pursuing,” Mr Pendergast said.

He encouraged any property owners who had been affected by the fire, via damage to property, pastures, fences, trees, livestock or otherwise, to contact the firm to register their interest in the class action. Mr Pendergast explained that by registering with Maddens Lawyers, fire victims would be kept up to date on the progress of the class action, and the investigations that formed part of the legal action.

“Registering isn’t necessarily a commitment to take action – at this early stage, it’s an excellent way to remain informed about the progress of the class action and remain across what their options are in relation to the litigation,” Mr Pendergast explained. “Registering with Maddens is free and it’s certainly not an obligation to take action – we see it as the best way for victims to be kept informed of the latest information.”

Mr Pendergast said the Warrnambool-based firm would be travelling to the Scotsburn area in coming weeks to run a public meeting to discuss the compensation claim.

“That will enable people to discuss the process and the general legal aspects of compensation claims,” Mr Pendergast explained.

Mr Pendergast clarified that a class action could be a lengthy process, from initial registration through to final payments post-trial, but added that his firm had achieved considerable success in the past. “For example, we are preparing to finalise compensation payments in a similar class action in the Gippsland region of Jack River, which has been three years between the date of the fire and final payments to burnt-out landowners,” he explained.

He encouraged anyone keen for more information about the class action process to contact Maddens Lawyers either online or toll free on 1800 815 228.

Maddens Lawyers, based in Warrnambool on Victoria’s South West Coast, successfully represented hundreds of regional landowners and businesses who lost property and business in four Black Saturday fires; Beechworth, in Victoria’s north east; Horsham and Coleraine, in the state’s far mid-west and Weerite, near Camperdown, in south west Victoria.

The firm is also involved in a number of additional bushfire class actions relating to other fires that have occurred more recently, such as Springwood in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and the Mickleham-Kilmore Bushfire that burnt through Melbourne’s outskirts in February 2014.


November 8th, 2016 by

A south west law firm already has a register of more than two hundred sexual abuse victims likely to apply for compensation via the recently-announced institutional sexual abuse redress scheme.

The Federal Government has announced it will establish a dress scheme for victims of child institutional sexual abuse. The scheme was a key recommendation form the child sex abuse Royal Commission.

Maddens’ Personal Injury Law Specialist Gary Foster has been lobbying for more than 12 months for such a scheme. He already has a register of well over two hundred victims of sexual abuse – many from the south west – whose claims will name a variety of churches, schools and other institutions.

Mr Foster, who leads the firm’s Personal Injury department, said the redress scheme would be welcomed by thousands of victims across Australia, as it was likely to do away with a lot of the legal impediments and trauma associated with traditional avenues of compensation through the Courts.

“Victims have been through more than enough without having to get ‘beaten up’ in Courts by institutions seeking to protect their reputation or assets,” he said.

Anyone seeking to register for the redress scheme should contact Gary Foster at Maddens Lawyers, either by clicking here, or phoning 1800 815 228.





August 10th, 2016 by


A Class Action representing more than 30 landowners burnt out in a 2014 Gippsland bushfire is on the brink of settling, delivering fire victims a share of around $8 million to cover the property loss and damages they endured. 

The Jack River Bushfire Class Action, led by Maddens Lawyers, has seen defendants Ausnet and BJ Murphy agreeing to each contribute 50% of the settlement costs, without admitting liability for the 9 February fire.

An application for final approval of the proposed settlement will be heard in the Supreme Court of Victoria in November this year.

Maddens Lawyers Class Action principal Brendan Pendergast explained that the Gippsland bushfire burned approximately 5000 hectares between Jack River and Madalya, west of the Gippsland township of Yarram, when trees came into contact with a powerline north west of the Egans Road/Yarram-Morwell Road intersection, around 10.20am on Sunday 9 February 2014.

Thirty-four local residents and property owners registered to be part of the Class Action.

Mr Pendergast said the damages suffered by the Registered Group Members included the loss of two homes, as well as fencing, pastures, outbuildings, native trees and a timber plantation.

This is the sixth bushfire Class Action the Victorian firm has settled since 2009, with Maddens Lawyers the first law firm to secure compensation for victims of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. 

Mr Pendergast described the proposed settlement as a very satisfactory result for the affected residents and property owners, who were still seeking closure on the 2014 fire.

“A Class Action process allows those traumatized by a bushfire to obtain compensation they may have never received had they sought redress on their own. It also offers closure on what they have endured in the two and a half years following the fire. In our many years of working with bushfire victims, we have come to understand, very clearly, that recovering from a fire is a harrowing and arduous process. This is an important step in that recovery.”

Now the proposed settlement terms had been agreed upon, Mr Pendergast said Registered Group Members were being written to, to ensure they were aware of, and content with, the detail of the agreement. He said while the timing of payments was difficult to predict, Maddens was working to settle all claims by early 2017.

“We have reached an excellent settlement on behalf of the Registered Group Members, with fire victims who might otherwise have been left with nothing, now in line for compensation. Our priority now is to ensure these payments can be distributed as soon as possible, so that victims can move on.”

For more information about the settlement, contact Maddens Lawyers Class Action department. 

Changes to spinal injury compensation laws

November 19th, 2015 by


Western Victoria’s most experienced personal injury lawyer has applauded pending new laws that will make it easier for spinal injury sufferers to claim compensation for their impairment. 

The Victorian Parliament is due to enact the Wrongs Amendment Bill 2015, which will modify a range of inequities in Victoria’s personal injuries legislation.

Gary Foster, an Accredited personal injury law specialist with Maddens Lawyers, said the changes to the Victorian Wrongs Act included lifting what was known as the spinal injury ‘impairment threshold’, making it easier for people injured in a public place or due to medical negligence to meet criteria for compensation.

“Previously, the Wrongs Act dictated that a person with a spinal injury could only claim compensation for pain and suffering if their injury resulted in what was medically assessed as more than five per cent permanent physical impairment,” he explained.

Mr Foster said changing the legislation from ‘more than’ to ‘including’ five per cent was a much bigger deal than it may seem – and it would make compensation available to a large number of people who, previously, had to be told they didn’t qualify.

“The complexities of the compensation system mean the medical ‘rating’ of an impairment increases in five per cent increments – the impact of a spinal injury is determined as either five per cent impairment, or 10% impairment, or 15% and so on.

“Until now, the legislation has determined a person with a spinal injury had to suffer ‘greater than five per cent’ impairment – effectively, a person had to suffer 10% impairment to be eligible for compensation. It excluded a whole range of injuries – and people – even though these people’s injuries were considerable and debilitating.

“By changing the legislation to include ‘five per cent impairment or more’ – even though it might seem a small thing – will make a huge difference to a great number of people who, until now, have had to accept that, according to the law, their suffering is not significant.”

Mr Foster added that the changes also made improved provisions for people who had suffered psychological injuries, also making it easier for them to claim compensation from those at fault.

“These changes are effectively about removing red tape in relation to compensation claims and making it more straight forward for the injured person to claim compensation. Previously, the Wrongs Act limited entitlements – this goes some way to rectifying that.”

Mr Foster encouraged anyone who had been injured in a public place, or as a result of medical negligence – whether it be spinal, psychological or otherwise – to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, as the compensation process was governed by strict time limits.



Landowners – don’t be roadblocked by Horsham Bypass plans

October 19th, 2015 by

Property owners likely to lose land to the pending Horsham bypass should seek expert legal advice to ensure they receive full compensation for the land they will lose.

That’s the suggestion of Accredited Business Law specialist Erol Chakir, who has helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for regional Victorian farmers whose land has been used for various infrastructure projects over the past 10 years.

Mr Chakir, a Principal with Maddens Lawyers, warned that the first offer usually put to landowners was rarely the best.

“My experience is it’s only when landowners know their rights and, based on advice from a lawyer, understand what they can ask for, that the maximum amount of compensation is secured,” he said.

“Those acquiring the land are always working to serve their own best interests, and will attempt to secure the land at he lowest price they can, rather than work for what is in the best interest of the landowner.

“But when a landowner has been represented by an experienced lawyer, who knows the process well, the end result is typically many thousands of dollars more for the property owner than had they gone alone.”

He said negotiating a contract for compulsory acquisition of land was a complex process that, despite what people may have seen on television, rarely favoured ‘David’ over ‘Goliath’.

“While the film, ‘The Castle’, is a great story, compulsory acquisitions rarely, if ever, finish like that one did,” Mr Chakir warned. “It’s a lot less entertaining, and much more complicated. There’s a lot of back and forth and the more you know about the process, the better you tend to fare.”

Mr Chakir, who is also western Victoria’s only Tax Law specialist, has worked with hundreds of regional Victorian landowners whose land is now home to an assortment of state or privately owned infrastructure. This includes wind turbines, gas pipelines and powerline easements, the expansion of the Princes Highway between Colac and Geelong and the expanded Hamilton airport.

“There are a lot of complexities in this process,” Mr Chakir explained. “Landowners may not realise what factors can influence how much compensation they are entitled to ask for, and receive. For example, the length of time someone has owned the land, and what other business they conduct on it, all comes into calculation.

“Advice from an experienced lawyer is a sensible first step that is likely to yield you more compensation than going it alone.”

He added that the cost of having a lawyer negotiate on a landowner’s behalf was also part of what could be claimed when negotiating a final price. “The compensation a landowner is paid will include legal costs,” he reasoned.

Mr Chakir stressed that landowners were free to handle the compulsory acquisition approaches as they wished – but the payoff of doing so was usually much less in dollar terms.

“It’s not something you MUST consult a lawyer for in order to finalise it,” he said. “But, as a lawyer who has overseen many of these types of situations, I can confidently offer that those who undertook the process with he support of an experienced lawyer gainedmore in compensation than what they would have received if they’d acted on their own.”