Tag: #transportaccidents

A Category of Forgotten Worker/Road User

 

This is an extremely distressing topic for us to raise, but we feel that not having the debate is to sit back and perpetuate a failure of the law and insurance for a category of hard-working, everyday people.

It is a topic that involves the tragedy of suicide, so if this causes distress please take care in reading on and seek help where required – it is not our intention to cause upset.

Our community has become very good at suicide prevention at the outset, with excellent local medical and allied practitioners working over-time to assist struggling people. However, where a situation arises in the course of someone’s employment on our Victorian roads, the law in our view fails workers and creates an abyss for them.

Our clients have been exposed to the very tragic circumstance of pedestrian suicide by truck. There is no doubt the struggling person did not intend to cause harm, and our clients have been ‘blameless’ in an unavoidable situation while driving heavy vehicles. There is devastation which impacts the whole community. A life is lost, families are shattered and a worker effectively loses their life too. So, legally what happens next?

The injured worker/driver will suffer severe nervous shock injury. They will be entitled to receive limited ‘no-fault’ compensation benefits under the WorkCover scheme. More often than not, their psychiatric injury is assessed under an almost unattainable threshold of 30% to qualify for an impairment benefit lump sum. It is difficult to envisage much worse that a person could be exposed to, yet these assessments fail them.

The injured worker/driver will most likely satisfy the “serious injury” threshold in the TAC legislation and will make out the elements of a common law claim for damages – but where do they go? The employer has often done nothing wrong; the TAC are only liable to indemnify a party for negligent acts arising out of the driving or use of a motor vehicle. The pedestrian’s estate will often be insufficient (and our clients do not wish to go down that path in any event), and rarely will a pedestrian be covered under the public liability component of a home and contents insurance policy (noting: (a) there may be none; and (b) there are exclusion clauses in such policies – similar to problems we are seeing with the E-Scooter cases).

The blameless injured worker/driver is then left with ‘hollow’ rights and falls into financial ruin if they are unable to return to work. This is the aftermath the law has failed to deal with.

We are calling for consideration of some form of extension of limited indemnity from the TAC as a nominal Defendant against which the blameless worker could claim some damages in this very strict and limited category of case involving a pedestrian and a driver of a heavy vehicle in the course of their employment when confronted with this known, but under-reported, ‘occupational hazard’. We are not suggesting comprehensive coverage for all incidents involving motorists and pedestrians – that would be an impossible burden for the very well-run TAC scheme. However, the reality is that in this situation there is “double insurance” (both WorkCover and TAC premiums being paid) with no benefit for the worker.

This is one potential solution; it may not be the ultimate solution, but we hope to trigger a debate. To remain silent on this issue is to fail these workers/road users. If you believe in the rights of Victorian workers and road users, please join us and speak up for them – we have to at least try something. Call us crazy, but the public feedback has been enormous.

This is a legally and emotionally complex issue. However, we are of the view that this is precisely what the law needs to deal with – it is no excuse for the law to be missing in action. If the law is not working for our people, it is not working properly in this space.

 

If you or anyone you know needs help call:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Griefline on 1300 845 745
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978
Care Leavers Australasian Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774
Head to Health at headtohealth.gov.au

 

Yesterday’s horrific transport accident in Armadale which left a woman in a critical condition at The Alfred Hospital after being struck by the driver of a vehicle allegedly on Autopilot, is a stark reminder of every driver’s need to understand the capabilities of the technology they are using and their non-delegable duty to be responsible for the safety of others whilst they are in charge of a motor vehicle.

With surging petrol prices and an increasing take-up in vehicles with automation systems, it is imperative that the technology is not misunderstood for more than what it is, and that drivers are educated in the use and limitations of their vehicle.

Levels of Autonomous vehicles

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) developed an industry standard scale dividing autonomous vehicles into six levels with Level 0 having no autonomous features and Level 5 vehicles being fully autonomous ie:  not requiring a driver.  In 2021 the SAE published an update to its definitions to clarify that Levels 0-2 are “driver support features” requiring the driver to still be heavily involved with the vehicle’s operation.

There are a number of manufacturers currently incorporating automation systems into their vehicles including Tesla, Mercedes, GM and Volvo, but these are what are known as Level 2, which means that whilst the car can control some functions such as steering and speed on a marked highway, the driver still has to be in control of the vehicle.

Tesla Autopilot function

The vehicle in question in yesterday’s accident was reported to be a Tesla Model 3.  Whilst Tesla asserts that the Tesla Autopilot function enables the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane, Tesla’s own site points out that the “Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”.

Your responsibility

Whilst we cannot comment on the specifics of yesterday’s accident, drivers remain the sole person responsible for the safe driving of the vehicle under their control regardless of the make, model or the technology it utilises.

“Whilst yesterday’s accident is reportedly the first case involving a Tesla for Victoria’s major collision unit, in my opinion, it would be a tenuous defence for any driver to rely on an argument that their vehicle manufacturer was in some way responsible for an accident in circumstances where the use of the technology is outside the guidelines indicated by the manufacturer, and where the driver has failed to uphold his or her responsibility in the safe driving of their vehicle.

We watch with great interest as to the precise type of data from the vehicle’s operating system the Major Collision Unit might able to obtain, as we expect this will become a significant area of enquiry in matters concerning automated vehicles involved in serious collisions for both criminal investigations but also the cases we deal with, being civil claims for personal injury damages involving the TAC” said Ms Blond, Managing Director of Fortitude Legal.

Your rights if injured

As with all transport accidents, drivers, regardless of the technology of their cars, are insured for injury to others through the Transport Accident Commission.  The Transport Accident Scheme provides for compensation to those injured including:

 

  • Loss of earnings;
  • Medical and like expenses; and
  • Lump Sums of compensation which can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for those injured in negligent circumstances.

 

Fortitude Legal is an Award winning law firm specialising in obtaining compensation for those injured in transport accidents.

 

Contact us for a free, no obligation chat on 1300 020 618

 

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..