A Geelong cyclist who became a paraplegic after a serious accident has been forced to rely on the generosity of friends and community donations after being denied Transport Accident Commission benefits.
The TAC has rejected Rory Wilson’s application for assistance on the grounds that the crash - that left the much-loved local paralysed from the chest down - does not meet the definition of a "transport accident".
In July this year, Mr Wilson was riding with a group of cyclists when he crashed into a stationary delivery van at Portarlington on the Bellarine Peninsula. The accident severed his spinal cord.
The 64-year-old, who is now a patient at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre in Kew, said he felt abandoned by the system.
“The TAC is a no fault scheme and is supposed to protect all road users involved in road accidents,” Mr Wilson said.
“As a road user I have contributed to the funding of the TAC scheme through my car registration fees and I have had an accident that involved a registered motor vehicle.
“To be told that I am not entitled to any assistance after such a devastating and life-changing accident is absolutely gut-wrenching for me and my family.”
Bike Safe Victoria President and close friend Barton van Laar wants the law to be changed to ensure that all injured cyclists are covered by the TAC.
“If the TAC scheme cannot assist people like Rory it is unfair, discriminatory and inconsistent,” Mr van Laar said.
“Had Rory been riding to or from work when he had his accident he would have been entitled to TAC benefits. Two other riders he was riding with at the time were riding to work and they would be covered if the accident had happened to them. If Rory had swerved to miss a vehicle that pulled out in front of him, he would also have been covered by the scheme.
“Even though he crashed into a stationary truck that was parked in a dangerous spot, he doesn’t get a cent for medical or other support. It’s just not right.”
Slater and Gordon motor vehicle accident lawyer Tom Burgoyne said the firm was now investigating Mr Wilson’s legal options in light of the TAC’s denial of benefits.
“We believe that cyclists like Rory should be covered and not be left to fall through the cracks in the system,” Mr Burgoyne said.
“The technical point that the TAC has taken relating to the manner in which the accident occurred will be disputed, but there is also a case for making the law clearer so that all cyclists on our roads are covered, especially when a registered vehicle is involved.
“The law was changed in December 2000 to clearly cover cyclists who collide with a stationary vehicle while travelling to and from work, but the change was restricted to those narrow circumstances.
“The law was also more recently further extended to accommodate instances where cyclists are injured in car ‘dooring’ incidents. If the TAC will not accept this claim, I believe Rory’s case calls for another review,” he said.
Mr Wilson is a former Geelong North Secondary College teacher and a Bike Safe committee member. Before his accident, he ran bike safety courses for refugees in the Geelong region.