A significant number of overseas visitors to Australia are injured in transport accidents each year.
Any person injured in a transport accident that occurs in Victoria or in another State or Territory, provided the person was injured whilst travelling in a Victorian registered motor vehicle, is eligible to receive compensation under the Victorian Transport Accident Scheme.
The compensation scheme is administered by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). The scheme is governed by the provisions of the Transport Accident Act 1986.
For those overseas visitors who suffer severe injuries and are hospitalised, the TAC provides travelling and accommodation support for close family members who travel to Victoria to visit the accident victim. TAC will pay such expenses up to a total of $6,620.00 in respect of any one accident victim.
The TAC covers all of the ambulance, hospital, medical and like expenses of the accident victim whilst in Australia. However, once the injured person returns home, the TAC is no longer responsible to pay for medical and treatment costs if those costs are incurred outside Australia. The injured person can return to Australia to undergo treatment or surgery and the TAC will have to meet those treatment costs.
The injured person is also entitled to receive payments for loss of income and lost earning capacity. Depending upon the severity of the injuries, the entitlement to income support can continue until normal retirement age. For people with a non-severe injury, the income support ceases on the third anniversary of the accident. The income support is payable even if the accident victim returns to their home country.
Overseas accident victims are also entitled to receive an impairment lump sum payment.
The amount of the payment is dependant upon the percentage impairment of the whole person caused by the injuries.
The accident victim may have to return to Australia to undergo medical examinations in order to have their level of permanent impairment assessed by specially trained and qualified medical practitioners. Overseas medical practitioners are not accredited to perform impairment assessments under the TAC Scheme.
Often, overseas visitors will have travel insurance. This can be very useful to cover the cost of getting home, however, most travel insurance policies place significant limitations on the manner in which an overseas accident victim can be medically repatriated. In some cases, the TAC will pay medical evacuation costs, however, this is often subject to argument.
Severely injured overseas visitors may be entitled to recover common law damages if their injuries resulted from the negligence or fault of another person. Common law claims for overseas accident victims are very important. In a common law damages claim, the cost of overseas medical treatment can be recovered as part of the claim. For severely injured overseas visitors the ability to recover overseas medical costs is a very important issue.
In a common law damages claim, there are limits on how much can be recovered by a transport accident victim. A TAC victim can only recover a maximum of $450,460.00 for pain and suffering and $1,013,560.00 for pecuniary loss (economic loss). Pecuniary loss includes loss of income, lost earning capacity and overseas medical costs.
Claims by overseas visitors are by their nature, very complex. There are special considerations that apply to injured visitors. Overseas accident victims need to obtain specialist legal advice at the earliest opportunity after the accident.
Understanding how the scheme works and in particular how the scheme works in the event of the accident victim returning home to another country, is vitally important and advice should be obtained with the least possible delay after the accident occurs.
Some overseas accident victims are entitled to receive benefits under a compensation scheme that applies in their country of residence. An application by the accident victim for such benefits can lead to a termination of their entitlement to receive compensation under the TAC scheme. Once again, it is vitally important that overseas visitors who suffer the misfortune of being injured in a transport accident seek urgent legal advice.
Peter Burt and Clara Davies have acted for countless overseas visitors injured in transport accidents. They are specialists in this area of law and can provide detailed and practical guidance to accident victims and their families.