Principal/Practice Leader Walter Hawkins of Maurice Blackburn, the IEU’s lawyers, recently addressed members from the Monaro Branch and the ACT. Here’s an extract of his address:
“Some or all of you may have heard of the ACT Citizens Jury on the Compulsory Third Party Insurance Scheme and I thought it would be appropriate to update you on where things are presently at
“A recap, in September 2017, the ACT Government established its first citizen’s jury to review the ACT’s Compulsory Third Party or CTP Scheme. The ACT currently has one of the best CTP schemes in the country for people injured through the fault of others in a motor vehicle accident.
“Participation on the jury was voluntary, however people who were making a claim were specifically excluded. Opportunity to include people with real life experience of our existing scheme was thereby lost.
“There was a number of other major problems with the process and how it was conducted. As a result, a group of local law firms asked an independent consultant to design and deliver an independently facilitated deliberative democracy workshop to capture the lived experience of the Canberra community under the current CTP scheme and they participated in a deliberative workshop in late February 2018 and a report was produced.
“The workshop participants concluded that the current CTP scheme had served them well when they were injured, and that it dealt fairly with the many different types of injuries that can occur, and they wanted to see that remain the case for future road accident victims and their families.
“They thought that even those injured as a result of their own fault should be compensated but not by compensating those not at fault less. They thought there was a need for a nuanced, flexible and humane CTP scheme because road accident victims are particularly vulnerable both physically and psychologically. However, the ACT Government declined to directly provide a copy of the workshop report to the citizens’ jury on its final weekend.
“In late March 2018, the citizens jury met to vote on one of four models labelled A, B, C and D. The existing scheme was not able to be presented and the models represented varying degrees of alterations to the existing scheme. Model A was the model that most closely represented the current CTP scheme, and Model D presented the most radical change and was also the one with the greatest uncertainty of costings.
“What remained of the citizens’ jury with some members not turning up for the final weekend and one leaving in frustration before the final vote was taken, was to choose the most radical model D. The vote was by no means unanimous and there was a dissenting report produced.
“Model D effectively caps the overwhelming majority of road accident victim’s entitlements to medical treatment, care services, and wage loss to only five years after an accident and places a threshold on road accident victims whose injuries are caused by the fault of others of being able to access damages for their pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life and wage loss at 10% WPI.
“Approximately 95% of injured road users will not reach 10% WPI. Mortgage and rent and other living expenses don’t stop after five years so what are those persons and their families to do?
“Impairment thresholds are held out as an easy way to reduce premiums however in effect they will primarily be used to lock injured people out of accessing compensation and does not take account of individual circumstances. For example, a child might have less than 10% WPI and be locked out and even those with a 5% WPI might not be able to work in their usual job such as labouring or even hairdressing.
“The ACT Government is now drafting the legislation but much is still to be worked out, but the Government plans for the new scheme to be effective come 1 July 2019.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of this change on all Canberrans and their families who are injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by the fault of others, and I strongly encourage you to stand with us for a fair CTP scheme and to contact your local member and say that the rights of road uses who have had the misfortune to be injured on our roads should not be stripped away from them. I have some hard copy precedent letters I can distribute or they can be provided electronically. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find our more information about Maurice Blackburn at www.mauriceblackburn.com.au.”