BACKGROUND We sought to identify the role of pre-injury socio-demographic and health characteristics, and injury severity in determining health-related quality-of-life outcomes for mild to moderate injuries 2 months after a motor vehicle crash in a compensable setting. METHODS People aged 17 years and older, injured with a New Injury Severity Score of 8 or less, in a motor vehicle crash in New South Wales and who had registered a claim with the Compulsory Third Party Insurance scheme from March to December 2010 were contacted to participate in the study. Information for 364 eligible participants was primarily collected through telephone interview, approximately 2 months after injury. RESULTS Substantial proportions of participants continued to have adverse outcomes approximately 2 months after their injury with mean Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) physical component score of 36.7 (SD ±10.3), SF-12 mental component score of 46.6 (SD ±11), Euro Qol (EQ) analogue scale score of 65.8 (SD ±18) and Euro Qol five dimension (EQ-5D) summary score of 0.70 (SD ±10). Key factors predicting adverse outcomes were prior chronic illness, obesity, hospitalisation and self-perceived threat to life due to injury. CONCLUSIONS This study highlights the substantial impact of apparently "minor" motor vehicle crash injuries in a compensable setting and suggests targets for studies of tertiary prevention to improve health-related quality-of-life outcomes.