State Government to reduce victims’ of Transport Accidents right to sue for damages.


State Government to reduce victims’ of Transport Accidents right to sue for damages.

The government looks set to significantly curtail the common law rights of people injured in Transport Accidents by narrowing the criteria for serious injury as The Age reports on 17 October. Rather than delivering “consistency” this move seems to be driven by cost-cutting ( despite high profits ) and seemingly reinforces old stigmas and prejudices about mental illness.

Here’s the article:

Law reforms to save on TAC injuries bill

People who have been injured in car accidents will find it harder to claim compensation for severe long-term mental illness under reforms expected to save the state government millions of dollars.

The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) can award compensation to people it deems have suffered a serious injury as a result of a transport accident, which includes those who have developed a severe long-term “mental, behavioural disturbance or disorder”.

Changes to the law which governs the commission, introduced on Wednesday, significantly limit the definition of a severe mental injury.

Under the changes, only people who show symptoms of a “recognised mental illness”, a consequent disability that has not responded “to known effective clinical treatments” and who have a “severely impaired function with symptoms causing clinically significant distress and severe impairment in relationships and social and vocational functioning” for at least three years can claim damages.

Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips said the TAC had worked with the Chief Psychiatrist on “a definition of severe mental injury which is consistent with the views of modern medicine”.

Mr Rich-Phillips said the government was not seeking to restrict access to compensation, but to ensure that compensation claims for mental injury were made “consistently”.

Asked if he believed the definition’s introduction would reduce the number of people able to claim compensation for severe mental injury, he said: “If they are people with a genuine mental injury, meeting that criteria, then no. The intent is not to restrict access to common law benefits, it’s to ensure they are dealt with on a consistent basis.”

“People getting compensation for a serious mental injury should be getting it on the basis of this type of definition anyway,” he said.

TAC lawyer John Voyage called the new test “inhumane” because it would exclude many people who suffered serious long-term psychiatric difficulties. “It was plainly intended to reduce the number of people who receive compensation for psychiatric injury,” he said.

Geraldine Collins, president of the Australian Lawyers’ Alliance, said it was “difficult to see how it would have been considered by people who have an understanding of psychiatric help. It’s also a problem because not infrequently people will not go and get assistance for many years.”

Luke Donnellan, shadow minister for road safety and the TAC, said the changes would save the government “tens of millions of dollars” and showed the Coalition was “more interested in delivering a budget surplus than ensuring the proper care and compensation for seriously injured Victorians”.

Mr Rich-Phillips rejected Mr Donnellan’s comments and would not be drawn on how much the change might save, but said that overall the reforms, which include a fixed costs order on the legal costs associated with TAC claims, would save the government between $30 and $35 million.

The TAC has added $176 million to the state government’s coffers after making a $973 million profit this year.

The dividend to its “sole shareholder” was the highest paid in the past five years.

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