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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

ACT Greens and Barr Government abandon injured Canberrans

Innocent road accident victims have been abandoned by their representatives. Under a deal agreed between the Barr Government and the ACT Greens, ACT CTP insurers will be handed unprecedented profits.

In agreeing to back the Barr Government, the ACT Greens have reneged on an earlier commitment to protect injured persons’ rights.

The Barr Government / Greens scheme will strip away the compensation rights of road accident victims. As demonstrated in NSW, the only winners from the new scheme will be large insurance companies, whose bottom lines will profit thanks to the reduction in compensation payments to injured Canberrans.

About 90 per cent of innocently injured people (that’s around 800 per year) — will have their common law rights to proper compensation for their injuries removed.

Innocent road accident victims will no longer be able to recover their full lost wages.

The value of care provided to injured people by their family members will not be compensated.

Quality of life damages will be allocated on the basis of a ‘whole person impairment’ scale that is specifically designed to be unattainable. No injured person will attain the ‘whole person impairment’ of 100 per cent contemplated by the scale.

Insurers will gain extraordinary control over the lives of injured people. Insurers will determine an injured person’s capacity to work, will decide whether treatment is considered reasonable or cost effective, and can require the injured person to undertake multiple medical and other assessments. Few injured people will be in a position to contest the insurer’s decisions.

The new scheme deliberately discourages the use of legal practitioners by injured people. The insurers will use the motorists’ premiums to pay their own lawyers to defeat claims by injured persons. This exacerbates the power imbalance between an injured person (who is generally a one-off participant in the scheme) and the insurers (who deal in the scheme on a daily basis). It is this power imbalance that has resulted in a massive underspend in motor accident insurance payments in NSW.

The ACT Greens claim that an additional 600 injured people will be able to access compensation is simply wrong. Under the existing scheme, all injured people are entitled to a payment of up to $5,000 for medical expenses and three of the four insurers (covering over 90 per cent of insured motorists in the ACT) currently provide coverage for at-fault drivers as part of their CTP premium offer — at no additional cost.

Similarly, the claim by the ACT Greens that the deficiencies of the new scheme can be addressed after three years via a review will not help the hundreds of injured people who will be barred from accessing proper compensation in the interim.

It is appalling that the ACT Greens are prepared to support legislation they know to be deficient. They know that these changes will cause harm to hundreds of injured Canberrans. They cannot absolve themselves from blame with the promise of a review three years in the future.

The legal profession is disappointed at the silence of the Attorney-General, Gordon Ramsay, who as the ACT’s First Law Officer, has not prevented the arbitrary withdrawal of compensation rights, the denial of legal representation, the degradation of rights previously established under the common law, the curtailment of access to justice, and the infringement of certain human rights.

The Barr Government and the Greens have rejected multiple proposals that would have at least reduced the negative impacts of the new scheme.

They refused to reduce the ‘whole person impairment’ threshold to allow more injured people to access proper compensation.

They insisted that damages be paid on the basis of an arbitrary and unattainable scale, rather than be tailored for the individual injured person as determined by a court.

They blocked the ability of injured people to access independent and professional advice and ensured insurers have unprecedented power over the lives of injured persons.

The people of the ACT should be very concerned that their elected representatives are selling their rights to insurance companies.

For further information contact:
Mr Chris Donohue, President, ACT Law Society, T 02 6274 0300, M 0418 633 836