Published: 08 June 2018
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas
How an injured cyclist changed TAC law
Legislation was yesterday introduced by the Andrews Victorian Government closing a loophole which the TAC had used to refuse compensation to injured cyclists.
We look at the circumstances that led to this welcome reform, and how what is now being dubbed “Rory’s Law” will change the lives of many injured cyclists.
Change needed for the legal definition of a transport accident
Under the Transport Accident Act 1986 (Vic) as it reads today, cyclists are only entitled to receive funding from the transport accident commission if they collide with a moving vehicle, a car door or stationary vehicle provided that they were on their way to or from work.
Drysdale Farmer Richard "Rory" Wilson's spinal cord was severed when he hit a parked furniture truck while riding with his head down in windy and wet conditions on 9 July 2014. In the days following the incident, Mr Wilson suffered massive strokes which left him needing to learn how to read and speak again, followed by a significant period in rehabilitative recovery.
Although Mr Wilson was undoubtedly involved in a "transport accident" as the layman would define that term, he was not eligible for any funding whatsoever from the TAC because the circumstances of his accident did not meet the legal definition of a transport accident; he was not on his way to or from work when the accident happened and so he fell foul of today’s law on eligibility.
Mr Wilson's TAC claim was rejected by the TAC and, in 2016, he appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in an application to overturn the TAC's original rejection. Unfortunately, the TAC's original decision to reject his claim was upheld by VCAT. He appealed his matter all the way to the Victorian Supreme Court where, in May 2017, with great sympathy, the Court rejected his application to appeal the VCAT judgment.
This is now hopefully about to change.
Changes to TAC law offer greater protection to cyclists
Thankfully, the Andrews State government introduced legislation yesterday amending the definition of a transport accident to include a collision between a cyclist and a stationary vehicle, removing the condition that the injured person must be on their way to or from work when they suffered the injury.
The bill will close the loophole and extend TAC funding to any cyclist injured by a collision with stationary vehicles.
As a testament to Mr Wilson's fight for justice, the amendment will be retrospective and cover any cyclist who has experienced a similar accident since 9 July 2014, meaning that Mr Wilson's claim will now be accepted.
The bill also extends the travel and accommodation allowance for family members to attend hospital when someone is injured, and pay income support to parents who need to be by the bedside of the injured children.
I’ve been injured in these circumstances, what should I do?
The short answer is – seek legal advice now.
Generally, injured persons may make a claim to the TAC within 12 months from the date of their injury. If the injury is not noticed or does not become obvious within that time, the TAC may accept a claim within 12 months of the injury ‘manifesting’. If TAC considers there are reasonable grounds for a delay, they may accept a claim up to 3 years from the date of the accident. There is no power borne by the TAC to accept a claim outside of this time.
If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact one of our offices to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Although the proposed changes will apply to accidents from 9 July 2014, the TAC does not have the power to accept a claim outside of 3 years from the date of the accident. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation to Mr Wilson, you need to act quickly.
What else is proposed?
Other proposed changes include extending family-related benefits to grandparents, extending benefits for dependent children to those completing an apprenticeship and increasing the maximum travel and accommodation allowance from $10,000-$20,000 for immediate family to attend hospital for distances greater than 100 km.
The Treasury and Finance Bill Legislation Amendment 2018 will also provide for an additional four weeks’ attendant care for the clients who need to travel overseas for work.
"Rory’s law", as it has been called by other practitioners practising in personal injury law, is a fitting testament to the commitment of Mr Wilson and his unwavering fight for justice, and those supporting him.It will offer much-needed assistance to those that have previously been caught in this legal loophole preventing them from claiming any sorts of financial assistance from TAC.
Thankfully and provided the bill passes through Parliament without controversy, this loophole will be forever closed.