Tag: #tac

I didn’t have my seat belt on.  Do I still have rights?

In writing this article, we want to make it clear that as personal injury lawyers we see the devastating impact of transport accidents every day.  Wearing a seatbelt is not only law but reduces the risk of injury or death in a transport accident.

In our work however, sometimes we meet people who have avoided seeking legal advice in this scenario, thinking they may be excluded from entitlements under the Transport Accident Scheme altogether.  This article is intended to provide information for people in those circumstances and to explain how their entitlements are impacted.  It is important that access to entitlements and medical treatment is understood, as the Victorian Transport Accident Scheme is there to assist those injured in transport accidents.

Entitlements

When a person is injured in a transport accident and not wearing a seatbelt, they are still entitled to compensation in accordance with the Transport Accident Act 1986 (Vic) including the following:

No Fault Entitlements

No Fault entitlements payable by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) include:

  • Medical and Like Expenses
  • Income Benefits
  • Impairment Benefit

Common Law Rights

 Prior to being able to claim Common Law Damages, the injured person is required to first establish that their injuries meet the definition of serious injury.

In a claim for damages under the Transport Accident Act, Common Law damages are payable for pain and suffering and economic losses.  Medical and like expenses are not typically able to be claimed and are usually preserved following an award of common law damages.

A serious injury can be proven by establishing a permanent whole person impairment of 30% or more in accordance with the AMA Guides 4th Edition; or

Demonstrating a serious injury via the “narrative test”.  The narrative test defines serious injury as:

  • Serious long-term impairment or loss of a body function; or
  • Permanent serious disfigurement, such as scarring; or
  • Severe long-term mental or severe long-term behavioural disturbance or disorder; or
  • The loss of a foetus.

Initial application via the narrative test is made to the TAC.  Should the TAC deny the serious injury application, a court proceeding is able to be issued to request a County Court Judge to grant leave to the injured party to proceed with the claim.

Negligence

 In order to successfully demonstrate negligence, the injured person would need to establish that the accident was due to the negligence of another party.  Negligence is established when a party other than the injured person has failed to take reasonable care for the safety of the injured person and that failure is a cause of the injured person’s injury.

Circumstances where negligence is typically established in a transport accident can include the failure of a driver to take reasonable care for the safety of others; the failure of a council or roads authorities to take reasonable care of roads, or road related areas; and the failure of animal owners to keep animals secure and off the roads.

For the purpose of this article we will referred to the negligent party as the Defendant.  Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the Defendant is usually insured by the Transport Accident Commission or in some cases, another insurer.

Where the failure to wear a seat belt becomes relevant is in the defence of a Common Law claim.  There are two possible arguments the Defendant may raise:

  • Voluntary assumption of risk (a complete defence); or
  • Contributory negligence (which may reduce a person’s entitlement to Common Law damages but not defeat it altogether).

 Voluntary Assumption of Risk

 The Common Law has a principle that a person who has voluntarily assumed the risk of the particular injury, will not be entitled to Common Law damages.

History shows however, that this is a particularly difficult defence to establish, and it is more likely that an entitlement to damages will remain.  Put more simply, it is unlikely that the failure to wear a seatbelt will result in a complete defence, but rather, a reduction in damages by reason of contributory negligence.

Contributory Negligence

 Contributory negligence is a live issue in transport accident claims when the injured person is unrestrained.  In order to establish contributory negligence against an injured person, the defendant  carries the onus of proving that:

  1. The injured person was unrestrained; and
  2. The injured person’s failure to be restrained amounted to a failure to take reasonable care for their own safety; and
  3. That the injured person’s failure to take reasonable care caused their injuries to be worse than what they would have been if they were restrained with a seatbelt.

At Fortitude Legal we have been involved in claims where the negligent party has not been able to establish one or all of the above points.

  1. Whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt is disputed.

Where the defendant asserts that the injured party was not wearing a seat belt but that is disputed, evidence could be relied upon including:

  • evidence of another traveler or a first responder that can say that the injured person’s seatbelt was in fact on;
  • photographs of the injured person showing bruising caused by the seatbelt.

 

  1. Whether the insured person’s failure to be restrained amounted to a failure to take reasonable care for their own safety.

Where a vehicle is fitted with a seatbelt and the injured person failed to wear it, it is likely that this element would be proven.

Please note however that there are exceptions.  For instance, circumstances where the vehicle that the passenger is travelling in is not required to be fitted with seatbelts including:

  • Some Buses
  • Trams
  • Classic vehicles that may not be required to be retrofitted

Further, a vehicle user may not be required to wear a seatbelt in circumstances where they have received medical certification that states that because of medical unfitness or physical disability, it is impractical, undesirable or inexpedient that the person wear a seatbelt.

In these circumstances, an argument about failing to take reasonable care for their own safety would be unlikely to succeed.

If a person does not have the ability to make reasonable decisions in the interests of their own safety, they will probably also not be impacted by a reduction for contributory negligence.  An example may be a young child/infant.

  1. That the injured person’s failure to take reasonable care caused their injuries to be worse than what they would have been if they were restrained with a seatbelt.

It is very clear that wearing a seatbelt is generally the best way to avoid serious injury in the event of a collision.   The defendant does however have to prove in case that a failure to do so was causative of more serious injuries.  Whilst it is often the case, there may be an exception where the failure to wear a seatbelt was not causative of greater injury.  Each case turns on its facts.

The law surrounding unrestrained motorists is not straight forward and there are many considerations in the Common Law when determining the impact of being unrestrained on an injured person’s entitlements.

If you have a query in relation to a TAC claim, please contact our expert Transport Accident Team for a no obligation chat on 1300 020 618.

 

 

 

 

Injured Off Road? What are My Rights?

In the context of off-road motorcycling or driving, an accident does not necessarily have to occur on a public road in order for you to be eligible to receive compensation.  For example, if you are injured whilst riding or driving a Victorian registered motorcycle or car on private land you may be entitled to receive compensation as a result of your injuries.

It is also important to consider what is public land.  Public land may include privately owned land, including by government, when the land is open to members of the public.  For example, when the land is readily accessible as there have not been adequate attempts made to prevent access to an area (i.e. inadequate fencing/gates and/or inadequate attempts to stop vehicles from being ridden or driven in the area).

In some circumstances you may be entitled to compensation even if the motorcycle or car you were riding or driving is unregistered.  However, the nature of the vehicle will need to be considered, i.e. whether the vehicle is capable of being registered.  Factors that will be considered include, whether the vehicle is used (actual usage) on public land or is intended to be used (having regard for the nature of the vehicle in question) on public land. While past cases are useful, each case will turn on its own facts.

The scheme surrounding transport accidents and your entitlements is complex and there are strict time limits that apply.  It is important that you get appropriate legal advice from the outset to ensure that your rights are protected.

We can help you navigate the scheme, maximise your entitlements and make the decisions that are right for your future.

If you have a query, please do not hesitate to contact our expert Transport Accident Team for a no obligation chat.

What does it mean if the TAC advise me I’m eligible for common law compensation?

If you have received a letter from the TAC notifying you of your eligibility to apply for common law compensation, the TAC has done what is known as proactively granting you a serious injury certificate.

One of the functions of the TAC is to pay compensation to people injured in transport accidents, whether they’re the driver of a vehicle, or someone injured by another driver including pedestrians and cyclists. To be eligible for common law compensation you need to satisfy a threshold level of injury (serious injury) and prove that someone else was at fault in causing your accident.

Previously, you would have to apply for a serious injury certificate which can be a long and complex process and almost always requires legal assistance.  Recent changes have led the TAC to proactively review files of some injured people before such application is formally made and, where the TAC is satisfied that you meet the serious injury threshold and your injury was caused by someone else, the TAC grant the serious injury certificate without the need for application.

Included with the letter advising you of your eligibility to receive compensation is a serious injury certificate, meaning you are now able to bring a claim for common law compensation which may include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity. The assessment of compensation can be a complicated process and requires expert legal insight.   Claims for pain and suffering damages cannot exceed the statutory maximum figure which is currently $577,280.  Claims for economic loss cannot exceed the statutory maximum figure of $1,298,980.

Typically, a claim for common law damages will not finalise your right to ongoing support from the TAC to medical and like expenses and as such, these benefits do not comprise part of a common law claim.

What should I do now that I have been notified by the TAC that I have a serious injury and that I am eligible for common law compensation?

As advised in the TAC’s letter, you should now engage a personal injury lawyer to negotiate with the TAC.

At Fortitude Legal our award-winning team are accredited specialists in personal injury law with a focus on obtaining compensation for people injured in transport accidents, like you.  It is not a given that the TAC will pay you your maximum entitlement.  What you are paid depends upon the material presented to them to outline the nature and extent of your injuries and loss.  That’s where our team at Fortitude Legal will work with you to ensure you get your maximum entitlement to compensation in the quickest time.

At Fortitude Legal we operate within the TAC Common Law Protocols.  The Protocols are an agreement that outlines how the TAC and our lawyers work together during the negotiation of your claim and they more often than not, ensure a swift resolution of your claim for compensation without the need to go to Court, thus getting the compensation in your hands sooner.

Even though the compensation payable by the TAC in a damages claim is often very substantial, it does not mean that the costs payable by you from your compensation will be.  It some instances no costs whatsoever will be payable by you from the agreed sum awarded by the TAC for compensation if you engage Fortitude Legal.  Not all law firms in this area will be willing to look after you in this way.

Call us for a free no obligation chat on 1300 020 618.

At Fortitude Legal – We’re In Your Corner!

 

 

As a cyclist, you may have entitlements under the transport accident scheme if you were injured as a result of a collision that was directly caused by the driving of a vehicle (including cars, buses, motorcycles, trains and trams).

It is important to note however that you may be covered as a cyclist in a number of additional scenarios including:

NEAR MISS – if the driving of a vehicle directly caused a need for you to take evasive action to avoid a collision and you ultimately suffer injury;
CAR-DOORING – an incident involving a collision between you as a cyclist and an open or opening door of a vehicle;
TRAVELLING TO OR FROM WORK – an incident involving a collision between you as a cyclist and a motor vehicle while you were travelling to or from your place of employment (the vehicle can be a parked or stationary vehicle);
COLLISION WITH A STATIONARY VEHICLE – an accident involving you as a cyclist and a stationary vehicle for accidents on or after 9 July 2014.

Furthermore, following ‘test case’ litigation in which Fortitude Legal’s Tom Burgoyne acted for the injured cyclist, the law with regard to collisions with stationary vehicles has changed for the better for cyclists across Victoria.

On 7 June 2018 a Bill was introduced into Victoria’s Parliament https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/cyclists-and-all-victorians-to-benefit-from-tac-changes/ to amend the transport accident legislation such that a collision between a cyclist and a parked or stationary vehicle will constitute a “transport accident” and not be confined to a situation where a cyclist is riding to or from work. After passing both Houses of Victoria’s Parliament on 20 September 2018, the Bill received Royal Assent on 25 September 2018 such that changes commenced on 26 September 2018.  The amendment has retrospective effect to 9 July 2014 and any cyclists injured in collisions with parked or stationary vehicles from that date will also be covered. This is referred to as “Rory’s Law”.

As a cyclist, you may be interested to read Tom’s article professionally published in the Law Institute Journal which called for a change to the law after Tom ran Rory’s test case https://www.liv.asn.au/Staying-Informed/LIJ/LIJ/Jan-Feb-2018/Cyclists-beware

The scheme surrounding transport accidents and your entitlements is complex and there are strict time limits that apply.  It is important that you get appropriate legal advice from the outset to ensure that your rights are protected.

We can help you navigate the scheme, maximise your entitlements and make the decisions that are right for your future.

If you have a query, please do not hesitate to contact our expert Transport Accident Team for a no obligation chat..