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Road trauma victims welcome repeal of unfair laws

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The grieving parents of children who died in road accidents have welcomed the repeal of harsh laws that made it harder for road trauma victims to seek compensation.

Donna Lister and Murray Heard have each faced legal delays since the definition of “a serious psychiatric injury” that applies to Transport Accident Commission claims was changed by the Napthine Government in 2013.

The pre-2013 rights of road trauma victims were restored when the Transport Accident Amendment Bill 2015 passed the Victorian Parliament last week.

Donna Lister’s case

Donna Lister’s son Matthew was one of five teenagers killed in January 2010 when the car they were travelling crashed on Plenty Road at Mill Park.

Ms Lister developed major depression after her 17-year-old son’s death. She stopped seeing a psychiatrist in 2013.

“I could no longer cope with having to relive the experience of losing my son,” Ms Lister said.

Ms Lister lodged a serious injury application in April 2015. The TAC rejected her application in August 2015 on the grounds that she did not meet the criteria of the new psychiatric test.

Under the new test, Ms Lister was required to have continuous treatment with a registered mental health practitioner for three years.

Murray Heard’s case

Murray Heard’s children Haylee, Billy and Paddy and their mother, Nicol suffered multiple injuries after they were involved in a car accident in 2011 at Pittong in western Victoria.

The Heard family was on a trip around Australia in May 2013 when Paddy, 5, died suddenly from complications caused by the car accident. His family donated his organs and set up Paddy’s Courage to raise awareness about organ donation. The family now lives in Torquay.

Mr Heard said the Napthine Government’s changes were too harsh.

“Not only do you have to wait three years before you can make a claim, but it is also compulsory that you see a psychologist or psychiatrist continually during this period. 

“This treatment might help some people, but for me having to relive the trauma regularly of what happened to my son doesn’t help me. It only makes things worse.”

Unfair, unjust and unacceptable

Slater and Gordon Motor Vehicle Accident practice group leader for Victoria, Joanne Panagakis, said the Napthine Government’s reforms had significantly impacted the rights of TAC claimants, including those who were often most vulnerable because they had lost a loved one due to road trauma.

“The 2013 reforms were unfair, unjust and unacceptable and I commend the Andrews Government for honouring its pre-election commitment to reverse them,” Ms Panagakis said.

“Victoria’s road toll has sadly increased significantly this year, with February’s toll the worst in more than three years.

“Behind those statistics are grieving families and traumatised emergency service workers. They will need ongoing support, not to be subjected to additional legal and medical impediments in their TAC claims or treated more harshly.

"The restoration of their rights is enormously important for road trauma victims.”