A person injured in a motor vehicle is entitled to medical and like expenses under the no fault scheme. Recent decisions in the Court of Appeal, which clarified the definition of a ‘motor vehicle’ and ‘rehabilitation’ services, have shown that there is a great width of benefits to which victims of motor vehicle accidents might be entitled.
Compensation for a recreational vehicle
In one case, the claimant suffered injuries in a motorbike accident that left him a partial quadriplegic. He sought payment for the cost of a quad bike on the basis that he required a recreational vehicle as part of his rehabilitation. The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) declined, arguing that as they had already provided the claimant with a motor vehicle, he did not require a further motor vehicle. It also argued that a motor vehicle was not a rehabilitation expense.
The claimant was successful with the Court of Appeal determining that while the quad bike was a motor vehicle, the provision of a quad bike was a reasonable rehabilitation expense, as it would “enable him to resume a recreational activity that was important to him thereby increasing his level of independence. It would, as the occupational therapist opined, further advance his overall rehabilitation program”.
Compensation for study costs
In another example, a person injured in a motorbike accident sought payment for the costs involved in completing a Bachelor of Arts degree. The claimant was a diesel mechanic who suffered a severe injury to his ankle. This ultimately left him unable to continue to run his business, which serviced and leased heavy equipment. He tried to work doing light office duties for a former customer but was not able to maintain that employment either.
The claimant decided he would retrain to become a trade teacher and the TAC paid for the course that qualified him to teach at TAFE. That did not qualify him to teach adults and the claimant argued that he required the further study to enable him to do so. He argued that he would not be physically capable of teaching in a TAFE position but would be able to manage the more theoretical and academic subjects involved in teaching adults.
The TAC denied payment on the basis it was unreasonable and they were not obliged to fund the ‘up-skilling’ of claimants.
VCAT determined that payment of the costs of the claimant’s degree was a reasonable vocational rehabilitation service as the claimant was incapable of being rehabilitated back to the work of a diesel mechanic.
What to do if you’ve been injured
These two cases illustrate the wide range of range of services and items that may be available to people injured in motor vehicle accidents.
If you do not agree with a decision of the TAC regarding payment of a medical and like expense, there are avenues to dispute that decision, especially if your doctor or other providers have recommended it.
There are time limits for lodging a request to review a TAC decision so it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as you receive advice of a decision with which you disagree.
 TAC v Hogan  VSCA 335
 Pearce v Transport Accident Commission (General)  VCAT 226