Published: 17 May 2018
Author: John Cramp
Injuries via mobility scooters, motorised skateboards and pushbikes prove problematic
Most Victorians would be aware that if they are injured in a motor vehicle accident they have rights under the Transport Accident Act. These include loss of earnings, medical expenses and potentially impairment lump sum claims and claims for Common Law damages in certain circumstances.
The definition of "motor vehicle" includes cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses and even tractors. It includes some recreational vehicles not designed for use of the road. Trains and trams are not considered to be motor vehicles, but people injured in tram or train accidents are covered by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).
The payment of the TAC levy included in the yearly registration costs of the vehicle provide the owner/driver of the vehicle with some or all of the entitlements listed above. Anyone injured as a result of an accident involving a motor vehicle has the same entitlements.
Is a mobility scooter classified as a vehicle for TAC?
People with a disability are increasingly using mobility scooters to make every day life easier. These are electrically powered scooters capable of about 10 kph and weighing less than 110 kilograms. The use of a scooter does not require a licence.
We have seen an increase in the number of enquiries from people injured by being struck by mobility scooters. These machines are silent and if operated at full speed on busy footpaths injuries will occur.
Mobility scooters are not included in the definition of “motor vehicle” and consequently any injury sustained by the operator or a member of the public is not covered by the TAC. Any recourse is directly against the operator if it can be shown that the scooter was operated negligently.
Electric vehicles and toys are not classified as a motor vehicle by the TAC
There has also been an increase in the use of electric scooters, self-balancing electric scooters or 'hoverboards', and bikes and skateboards with small petrol or electric motors attached, with teenagers and commuters in particluar taking advantage of cheap kits that are available online.
Once again, no licence is required to operate such a vehicle, and they also fall outside the definition of a "motor vehicle". This means that any injury sustained by either the operator or a member of the public that has been caused through the use of this type of vehicle is not covered by the TAC, and therefore the only form of recourse must be made directly against the operator.
It is unlikely that the TAC will consider widening the definition of “motor vehicle” to include these types of vehicles because there is no system of licencing for operators, and no system of registration allowing for the collection of a TAC levy.
As the use of these types of vehicles increases the risk of injury will also increase. At this time, keeping a good lookout remains your only form of insurance.