CHANGES TO THE Transport Accident Commission compensation law will unfairly disadvantage country people, a Bendigo lawyer says.
John McPherson, a partner at Bendigo’s Arnold Dallas McPherson law firm and a specialist in personal injury law, yesterday slammed the State Government’s bill tabled in Parliament on Wednesday that will make it harder for people injured in car accidents to claim damages for severe, long-term mental injury.
Mr McPherson said the amendment would require patients to consult a registered mental health practitioner, which was far harder in country regions than Melbourne.
“It’s much harder for people in Kerang or Cohuna to get access to psychiatric services than those in Toorak,” he said.
Mr McPherson said since the 1980s, Section 93 of the Transport Accident Act, which outlines the criteria for compensation for accident victims, had worked well without amendment.
Under Wednesday’s amendment, the definition of "serious injury" for mental injury has changed.
As a result, some people with severe, permanent mental injuries caused by the fault of another driver, would be unable to claim common-law damages for such injuries, Mr McPherson said.
There would also be a reduction in the legal costs that TAC has to pay successful claimants with disputed claims, he said, meaning the successful claimant would “pay more for the privilege of correcting TAC's errors in court or VCAT.”
He said there was no public clamour for an amendment and it was hard to understand the reason for the changes.
He said for years the TAC had been treated as a “cash cow” by successive governments, both Labor and Liberal, with billions in TAC funds funnelled into consolidated revenue since 1990.
“This is a blatantly inappropriate use of the money motor vehicle registrants pay to the TAC,” he said.
“That money is diverted away from this purpose by government, and in such huge amounts, would be a surprise to most people.”
Mr McPherson said there had been no consultation with affected groups and would have retrospective effect, taking away the rights of people injured many years ago.