Many overseas visitors to Australia are injured in transport accidents each year.
A visitor injured in an accident in Australia may be entitled to compensation. For transport accidents in Victoria, overseas visitors can receive compensation under the Victorian Transport Accident Scheme. Additionally, if injured interstate, an overseas visitor in a Victorian registered motor vehicle will be covered.
The compensation is managed by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).
Benefits for overseas visitors
Close family members can travel to Victoria to visit an overseas visitor hospitalised with severe injuries. Generally, the TAC will pay travel and accommodation for those family members. TAC will pay up to a total of $21,620.00 for such expenses.
Significantly, the TAC covers all ambulance, hospital, medical and like expenses of the accident victim whilst in Australia. However, the TAC is no longer responsible to pay for medical and treatment costs incurred outside Australia. The injured person can return to Australia to undergo treatment or surgery. Generally, TAC has an obligation to meet those treatment costs.
The injured person is also entitled to receive income payments for loss of income and lost earning capacity. Depending on the severity of the injuries, income support can continue until normal retirement age. For people with a non-severe injury, income support ceases on the third anniversary of the accident. Income support is payable even if the accident victim returns to their home country.
Overseas accident victims are also entitled to an impairment lump sum payment. The amount of the payment is determined by the percentage impairment caused by the injuries.
The accident victim may have to return to Australia to undergo medical examinations for the assessment of impairment. Permanent impairment can only be 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, many travel insurance policies contain significant limitations. These limitations impact on the manner in which an overseas visitor can be medically repatriated. In some instances, the TAC will pay medical evacuation costs. However, this is often subject to argument.
Common law claim for an overseas visitor
Severely injured overseas visitors may be entitled to recover common law damages. However, this may only occur if their injuries resulted from the negligence of another person. Common law claims for overseas accident victims can be very important. In a common law claim, overseas medical treatment costs can be recovered as damages. Hence, for severely injured overseas visitors, the ability to recover overseas medical costs is a critical matter.
In a common law claim, there are limits on the amounts that can be recovered. A TAC claimant can only recover a maximum of $591,910.00 for pain and suffering. A maximum of $1,331,890.00 can be claimed for pecuniary loss (economic loss). In this instance, pecuniary loss includes loss of income, lost earning capacity and overseas medical costs.
Claims by overseas visitors are very complex. There are special considerations that apply.
Understanding how the scheme works is vital. In particular, understanding what benefits the accident victim may have if they return to their home country. It is very important to obtain specialist advice without delay.
Some overseas accident victims are entitled to receive compensation in their country of residence. An application for such compensation may terminate the accident victim’s entitlement to compensation under the TAC scheme. Again, it is vitally important that overseas visitors who are 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.