There has been unfortunately a recent rash of accidents caused by young unlicensed teenagers in Victoria.
The TAC (Transport Accident Commission) has a responsibility to those injured in the accidents, even to those drivers who have illegally stolen the cars.
What is the relationship between the TAC, the drivers involved, the passengers involved and other persons injured in accidents caused by these drivers is a complicated one that most persons do not fully understand.
Initially, it would be good to remember that the TAC is a Victorian State government agency that essentially operates as an insurance company. The TAC has a number of responsibilities as created by the relevant legislation, the Transport Accident Act 1986, and in many ways certain provisions are like an insurance policy for all those involved in an accident involving the driving or use of a motor vehicle.
For all those injured in a car accident, certain benefits will be made available to them even if they are the unlicensed driver of the vehicle, and even if the vehicle was stolen. Medical and related services are generally available to all persons injured and such benefits will be there for the remainder of an injured person’s life. For very seriously injured persons this is a supportive benefit.
Other benefits are generally automatically available such as Loss of Earning Benefits, Loss of Earning Capacity Benefits and an Impairment Benefit, which have their individual criteria for entitlement. Not all such benefits are available to an unlicensed driver, or one who has committed a road offence. The legislation excludes loss of earning benefits, available for the first 18 months after an accident, to the unlicensed driver. However, the entitlement to the other benefits remain. All others involved, such as passengers and others injured can be eligible for all these benefits.
In the benefits world under the legislation, this is one of the ways the unlicensed driver is penalized.
Those injured in the motor vehicle accident see the TAC act immediately in its role to provide support. What they may not see is that TAC is also at the same time acting in its role as insurance company responsible for the actions of the unlicensed driver. In that role, the TAC has the potential exposure to pay common law compensation to all those injured by that unlicensed driver’s actions.
In its insurance role, the TAC is not acting in the interest of those injured all of the time. It is acting in its own interests to avoid or minimize its obligation to pay any common law damages.
Let us look at how that operates first with the passengers of the vehicle being driven by the unlicensed driver. If the accident was that driver’s fault and the passenger(s) were aware the driver was unlicensed, the TAC will argue the passenger(s) were wholly or partially at fault for getting into the car with that unlicensed driver. Depending on the facts involved, such arguments can have considerable strength.
Those passengers involved generally are not aware of TAC’s role in that respect, and so do not fully appreciate what can follow if TAC asks them for a detailed statement of what occurred. If they understood that insurance role better they could decline to give any statement to the TAC. A statement on that issue is not needed to get the insurance benefits mentioned above, as all you need to show is that you were injured by the driving of a motor vehicle.
So, having legal advice early on would be helpful.
Then there are those injured by the car driven by the unlicensed driver, be they in another car or a pedestrian. These individuals are not informed when TAC speaks to them that any information they give to TAC about the accident may be used against them later or in any claim for common law compensation.
Again, if such persons had early legal advice, they could be better prepared for their interactions with the TAC.
It is for these reasons, that our firm stresses so strongly that any person injured in a motor vehicle accident obtain early legal advice from a car accident lawyer and hopefully, from a law firm determined to achieve the best possible outcome for anyone injured.