Why are my rights at risk?
On 22 August 2017, the ACT Chief Minister announced the Government would lead a “review” into the rights of Canberrans to claim compensation for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. This process will result in changes to the current CTP scheme meaning less compensation for innocent road users.
What rights will I lose?
All of your common law rights under the existing CTP scheme are under review. This includes your right to damages for pain and suffering; loss of income; medical expenses and domestic care and assistance.
Experience has shown time and time again that the types of CTP schemes favoured by the current Government erode the compensation available to innocent victims of motor accidents. That means drivers, passengers, bicycle users, children and pedestrians – Canberrans who have been injured through no fault of their own – will receive less or no compensation for their expenses and losses.
Ask yourself why should I, and my loved ones, be short-changed when I am injured in an accident that was not my fault? Why should your family’s livelihood be put at risk when you have suffered injury or loss due to another driver’s negligence, including the drunk, careless or drug-affected driver? Clearly you shouldn’t, but this is exactly what you may face if the Government presses ahead with its agenda for change.
What is proposed and why should I be concerned?
The Government is establishing a “citizens’ jury” as a model for adopting changes to the CTP scheme. This process could work if truly transparent and fair, but the current plan is for the Barr Government to:
- select the jury members (noting that many who have experience in the area of CTP are excluded from the jury, including people who are currently in the process of having a CTP claim considered and their household members);
- appoint the facilitator, and
- control the information provided to the panel for its consideration.
To protect and preserve your rights, we need to ensure the process is fair and transparent and that the jury is properly informed of how the changes the ACT Government has sought in the past would drastically reduce the rights of road users injured by someone else’s negligence.
This is where you can help.
What can I do to help protect and preserve my rights?
It is important that your voice be heard, by the politicians and by the citizens’ jury.
We encourage you to:
- Become involved in the process. You can participate in the consultation process by providing feedback via:
- Email YourSayonCTP@act.gov.au
- Or post: Citizens’ Jury on CTP – Insurance Branch
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
- Write to your local member of the legislative assembly and speak up about the importance of preserving the rights of the victims of motor accidents – see attached for points for consideration and relevant contact details;
- Write to the Canberra Times and your local newspaper / call the local radio about your concerns;
- Talk to your friends and family members about the importance of protecting their rights;
- Head to the “Have your say” website about the CTP scheme – see attached for more information about what this means; and
- Invest your valuable time to participate in the telephone survey which will be conducted by Piazza Research during September 2017. Your feedback is needed!
Feedback should be lodged by 29 September 2017.
Contact your local member and raise these important points
1. The rights of innocent victims of road traffic accidents should be preserved.
They should not be eroded for the benefit of the people who have caused an accident. If the Government intends to introduce compensation entitlements for those who are at fault, that should not be done at the expense of innocent victims.
2. Even minor and whiplash injuries can have a devastating effect on the individual victims and their families, especially for low-income families.
Time off work, treatment expenses, pain and suffering, and domestic assistance needs can all result in losses to an individual which seriously disrupt their life. These losses and damages should be compensable. The Government should not consider introducing thresholds as a minimum requirement of all compensation claims.
3. The CTP fees paid by road users in the ACT also benefit a wide range of Canberrans who do not pay the fees, such as pedestrians, children, bicycle users, etc.
The small reduction in premiums which might flow to households will be greatly outweighed by the loss in compensation benefits for all family members available in the event of an accident. Further, research in other jurisdictions suggests that changes of the type supported by the Government do not usually result in a significant reduction in premiums. In fact, in NSW, premiums have continued to rise despite the very large reduction in benefits to injured people. Now, those premiums are amongst the highest in the country.
4. If the government proceeds with a citizens’ jury, the process must be open and transparent, and the jury members must be informed about the rights which ordinary Canberrans would lose in the event of changes.
The jury should be presented with models based on amendments to the current scheme in the interests of innocent victims of road accidents, not limited to types of CTP schemes from other jurisdictions in which the bulk of rights have been slashed.
5. The Government should investigate ways to make the current system fairer and more efficient.
For example, the current complicated rules for the recovery of costs in court for small claims put too much negotiating power in the hands of the insurers. These rules are arbitrary. They make it unfair, expensive, and difficult for innocent victims to recover proper compensation for their injuries. This aspect of the current scheme should be reviewed, with the view to creating a fairer playing field between claimants and insurers.
Email addresses for your local member
- Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Caroline Le Couteur, Member for Murrumbidgee – email@example.com
- Andrew Barr, Chief Minister: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Yvette Berry, Deputy Chief Minister: email@example.com
- Gordon Ramsay, Attorney General: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alistair Coe, Leader of the Opposition: email@example.com
- Giulia Jones, Shadow Minister for Police and Emergency Services: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jeremy Hanson, Shadow Attorney-General: email@example.com
The yoursay website
The Government is inviting members of the public to have their say at www.yoursay.act.gov.au/ctp. Once on this page, you will be asked to rate your priorities in a Compulsory Third Party Insurance Scheme. Six block statements will need to be ordered in a box on the left from most preferred to least preferred (top to bottom):
The boxes you will be asked to prioritise are:
Claim payouts reflect individual circumstances
- This is very important. The innocent should be serviced quickly and fairly.
- Your injuries and the effect they have on your enjoyment of life and continuing employment are taken into genuine consideration.
- Those that are more severely injured should be compensated more generously. By maintaining the current system, they are!
- This represents the system currently adopted by the ACT Courts to assess your entitlements to access compensation following an accident where you were not at fault.
Payments for medical treatment and care and lost income are made quickly to injured people
- We all want this.
- Prompt payments can be achieved without progressing to a no fault scheme or moving to a scheme with caps and thresholds limiting what an injured person can claim.
Premiums are affordable
- The premium reduction recently offered to New South Wales was less than 34c a day, for a loss of around 85% of the rights enjoyed before the reduction. This positive is largely outweighed by the sacrifice it requires.
- The New South Wales Government was not true to their word. Premiums were increased by amounts of $5 – $33, depending on the insurer.
- The ACT Government is enthusiastically advocating a low benefit, defined benefits, no fault scheme. This is being done without in any way acknowledging its catastrophic effects on the entitlements of those with moderate severity injuries with significant economic consequences. Despite various pronouncements about the benefits of first party schemes, what the proponents of such reforms do not usually disclose is their real agenda – shrinking the CTP scheme in order to build and expand upon the insurer’s far more profitable income protection insurance lines. Occasionally these proponents advocate income protection as the solution to the unjust and arbitrary removal of the right to recover economic loss damages. What they fail to mention is:
- income protection insurance is unavailable for many – the self employed, the student, the apprentice, the mother planning to return to the workforce. They cannot insure their future income; parents cannot reasonably be asked to insure their children against future economic loss. income protection insurance is particularly expensive.
- Most teachers and nurses and other ordinary wage earners just cannot afford it. The current CTP scheme is far better value income protection insurance against injury in a motor vehicle accident than anything a private insurer might sell;
- many cannot obtain income protection insurance. If you have a heart condition or diabetes or a prior mental health condition, insurers are just not interested.
Maximising the proportion of your premium dollars that go to the direct benefit of injured persons
- If changes are introduced, you may be responsible for covering the costs of medical reports, fees for obtaining clinical notes, court fees and other incidentals, where these are currently covered by the insurer on risk for the at fault driver.
- If you cannot afford to commission a report in response to the opinion proffered by the insurer’s doctor, you will be stuck with that opinion. This will potentially erode your compensation payments.
Injured people with a similar type and severity of injury receive similar compensation
- Compensation for similar injuries can be disparate in a number of ways. The reason for this is that the current scheme is specific to your needs and the extent of the effect of your injuries on your ability to continue living as you did pre-accident. Two persons of the same age may be involved in separate motor vehicle accidents which require amputation of the fingers on their right hands. It is more likely than not that if one were a plumber and the other an office worker, the plumber would be less likely to return to his or her pre-injury employment without restrictions. Should the fact that they have identical injuries limit the income loss to which the plumber is entitled, despite their loss being more significant?
- Under the current scheme, individual lump sum settlements are, beneficially, personal to the injured person’s circumstances. Why follow a pre-determined formula and rely on the insurance system for every need that arises?
Everyone injured in a motor vehicle accident has some access to compensation
- This sounds positive until thoroughly considered. This slogan means universal coverage. The at fault driver in the scenario above will be entitled to the same level of compensation as you, if not more, should their injuries require. That may include the drunk, speeding, disqualified or unlicensed driver.
- It is important to note that the two CTP insurers in the ACT, NRMA and Suncorp, both presently provide for some at-fault driver coverage.
- With an estimated 5000 to 7000 at-fault drivers potentially using the new scheme each year, it won’t be long before premium costs spiral out of control. The promised reduced premiums, if ever delivered, will be unsustainable.
- Careless drivers who cause accidents will be compensated by slashing the benefits of innocent genuinely injured accident victims. If everyone is compensated, compensation will be limited. It is better to be properly compensated, as deserved, than for everyone to be afforded coverage on a reduced basis.
You are encouraged to order these boxes as you see fit, but if you are struggling to do so, the order in which they currently read is the order we would choose if given the choice.