Today we are going to be talking about Victoria’s Transport Accident Laws and some of the recent changes to the laws. My guest is personal injury lawyer Henry Carus and he is going to talk with us about this topic. So, Henry thanks for being here today,
Henry Carus: My pleasure.
Dei Lynam: Well, Henry what are the changes to Victoria’s Transport Accident Laws.
Henry Carus: Recently, legislation has been passed by the current Labor Government, which essentially repeals legislation that was passed back in 2013 by the then Liberal Government and the best way to kind of understand it is that the legislation that was passed in 2013 was quite restrictive and curtailing of people’s entitlement to compensation. And this legislation has repealed that legislation. If I could take a moment I can just expand on that. The way it operated was that when the legislation was passed in 2013 there was a lot of anger within the legal community about the rights being taken away.
And the Labor Government which was in opposition at that time, promised that if it was ever returned to government, it would repeal that legislation. And what the legislation did in 2013 was that it curtailed tremendously the ability of people who have suffered a psychiatric injury to get access to compensation. People who had been affected in their mental ability were being punished by this legislation in 2013.
Dei Lynam: How will these changes impact those with psychiatric injuries?
Henry Carus: Well, essentially they are going to be restored to the same position they were prior to that 2013 legislation being passed. In other words, they’re going back in time and getting the same benefits they had before those changes were put into place. And the going back in time is quiet beneficial because this legislation has been around since 1987. It’s been interpreted for over 25 years. The judges understand what it means; the doctors understand what it means; the lawyers understand what it means. So therefore we are able to give it clear advice to individuals about whether or not they are able to get compensation for a psychiatric injury.
Since the legislation that was passed in 2013, no one has run a matter in the county court to judgment trying to figure out what the new legislation did because everyone thought it was so mean.
Dei Lynam: What types of psychiatric injuries are covered under this legislation?
Henry Carus: Any recognized psychiatric injury that is considered to be permanent? And then, you’re looking for the entitlement to a serious injury certificate. So what we’re looking at is under the legislation a psychiatric injury whose consequences are known as severe. They have to be more than serious which is why it’s used for physical injury; they have to be known to be severe. And we actually have a whole body of decisions that kind of interpret that term severe.
And so as long as there is a recognized psychiatric injury, whose consequences to someone’s life is severe, it’s covered by the legislation.
Dei Lynam: And is the legislation retroactive? Will it benefit those with psychiatric injuries who were previously denied benefits.
Henry Carus: Yes and we are not talking about being denied benefits because you can still get benefits like medical treatment. We are talking about denial to compensation for common law damages. We are talking mostly, pain and suffering and loss and ability to get income past and future. Those are the two aspects that were being denied by the legislation of 2013, and the current legislation just passed is retroactive. The court sort of erases the 2013 legislation as though it never has existed.
Dei Lynam: Henry how can a lawyer help in these types of situations?
Henry Carus: Well, psychiatric injuries are really challenging to both the individual and to their families. You’re dealing with someone who has been mentally impaired and so a lot of their thinking processes are being challenged. They know that their lives have been seriously affected, but they are not sure whether or not they are entitled to compensation for what has occurred. It requires a really good, I would say gifted, personal injury lawyer who understands this legislation to be able to look at the medical evidence, look at the person, look at the consequences, discuss matters with their family, and give that person a fair measure of advice as to whether or not their situation, their permanent psychiatric injury, will be seen to be a severe psychiatric injury that qualifies for a serious injury certificate and access to compensation.
Dei Lynam: Henry if someone has specific questions. How can they reach your office?
Henry Carus: We operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a website where people can contact us, and there is a phone number that we’re are always available to, I think the service we provide is there over time.
Dei Lynam: Henry, Thank you for your time today,
Henry Carus: My pleasure.
Dei Lynam: Until next time, this is Dei Lynam for Victoria Law TV.