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Victorians injured in road accidents could be missing out on millions of dollars in Transport Accident Commission payouts, with new research revealing nearly one-in-three do not know they are covered by TAC insurance.
A Slater and Gordon-commissioned survey of more than 1000 people has revealed 29 per cent of Victorians are unaware their vehicle registration fees include a TAC insurance premium, providing cover in the event they are injured in a transport accident.
The survey also found nearly 40 per cent did not know the TAC premium provided cover to injured people even if they caused the accident.
But the most alarming statistic revealed 73 per cent did not know they were entitled to claim a lump sum compensation payment of up to $1.5 million if the injuries came as a result of another party’s negligence.
Slater and Gordon commissioned the research after receiving a high number of enquiries from people with little or no understanding of TAC insurance, including one woman who contacted the firm recently and received $300,000 in compensation seven years after being injured on the roads.
Motor vehicle accident lawyer Janine Gregory called on the TAC to educate the public about the benefits entitled to anyone involved in transport accident in Victoria, whether they are drivers, passengers, pedestrians, motorcyclists or cyclists.
“The insurance on offer by the TAC is unlike any other product on the market in Australia because Victorians have no choice but to contribute to the fund when they pay their registration and they are unable to select another provider to compare what is on offer,” Ms Gregory said.
“In this circumstance it is critical that TAC fully informs the community of its role in this area.”
In the 12 months to April last year the TAC accepted 5,593 claims from Victorians admitted to hospital following transport accidents and Ms Gregory said many more would have missed out on compensation due to poor awareness of the TAC’s role as an insurer.
*Above figure does not include claims for injuries where victim was not hospitalised
“There must be thousands of injured Victorians who have had to deal with the impacts of a transport accident without accessing their full compensation entitlement,” Ms Gregory said.
“The research has confirmed our suspicions because the people we see invariably have very little or no knowledge of the medical support and other compensation benefits that they can claim.”
As well as lost income, TAC insurance covers accident-related hospital and other medical costs including rehabilitation, physiotherapy, pharmacy items and nursing and disability services.
Other key findings of the research include:
- Young drivers were the least informed when it came to identifying the benefits associated with the TAC component of vehicle registration, with 65 per cent of survey respondents in the 18-24 age group unaware the TAC premium covered them in the event of an accident-related injury.
- Women were significantly less likely to know about the coverage than men, with 36 per cent unaware. Only 22 per cent of men did not know about the coverage.
- Only 40 per cent of respondents knew that TAC coverage extends to injured drivers, passengers pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.
Ms Gregory said it was often not until accident victims sought legal advice that they became aware of the benefits available under the TAC scheme.
“It’s not simply a matter of contacting the TAC to receive your full entitlements. There are clear processes that have to be worked through before a person’s benefit can be assessed. Injured people need to make sure their interests are protected,’’ Ms Gregory said.
``The physical and emotional trauma people experience following an accident is bad enough without the added financial stress so it is extremely important that they receive their full compensation entitlement to help with their recovery and ease the burden of their injuries.”