Levelling up the WA CTP road map
16th Apr 2015
The Western Australian government will soon make an important decision on compulsory third party (CTP) insurance and access to justice that will affect the lives of seriously injured road users. There has been considerable debate in WA about these changes with most people recognising that the status quo has to change.
Currently, there are a number of situations where people are left with no avenue for compensation if they are left seriously injured after a road accident. For example, a single vehicle roll over on a country road or a collision with wildlife. Each year around 44 people in WA are involved in these kinds of collisions where there is no one ‘at fault’.
The cost to the community and government funded services is enormous with the health system, family and friends taking on the burden for the ongoing care of the injured person. If you add in the number of people who can claim compensation then there are an estimated total of 92 people catastrophically injured annually in WA who need support.
The Insurance Commission of Western Australia has outlined three different options that could be adopted for reform in its Green Paper: 'Options to add no-fault catastrophic injury to Western Australia’s Compulsory Third Party insurance scheme'.
The ALA, in its submission, favours ‘Option 3' where existing legal rights to lump sum compensation are not lost. The estimated cost is an extra $101 a year for a family car. With CTP premiums at a record low level in WA, there is capacity to build on the existing CTP scheme to ensure the so-called ‘remaining 44 people’ are covered.
The ALA believes that lump sum payments provide the best avenue for individuals and their families to maintain control, independence and choice in the delivery of their care and support. They also provide individuals and their families with the opportunity to make long-term financial decisions in their best interests and bring about a sense of closure after a traumatic event or injury.
Autonomy and self-determination are doubly important to people with disabilities. Institutionalisation simply entrenches the feeling of being “disabled”. Nothing reinforces a sense of disability like forced attachment to a government bureaucracy who holds the purse strings and decides what is reasonable care.
We believe that the experience of CTP reform in South Australia must be avoided at all costs, and that the rights of injured Western Australians must be guarded carefully in order to ensure that existing protections are maintained for generations to come.
With changes to disability support currently in launch phase in WA, it is important that both the National Disability Insurance Scheme and National Injury Insurance Scheme are financially stable. Unfortunately, history shows that with long-tail schemes (which deliver drip payments rather than a lump sum), this is often not the case.
Maintaining the existing rights of people to sue for reasonable and necessary support provides a bulwark against scheme unsustainability, as well as providing injured people and their families with the capacity and ability to exercise choice, independence and control over their future.
Phil Gleeson is a principal at Maurice Blackburn in Perth and a member of the Australian Lawyers Alliance state committee in Western Australia.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).