NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello is planning to overhaul the compulsory third party insurance scheme. Photo: Anthony Johnson The NSW Government is planning to overhaul the state’s compulsory green slip insurance scheme. Photo: Supplied
Drivers and pedestrians will need to buy income protection insurance to maintain their current level of cover if the NSW Government’s green slip reforms go ahead, personal injury lawyers warn.
At present, an innocent victim of a motor accident who sustains injuries has the right to receive payments to cover medical costs, legal costs, and lost wages.
The Baird government plans to overhaul the “unsustainable” green slip – also known as compulsory third party insurance – scheme, proposing to transfer those with less serious injuries onto a workers’ compensation-type scheme with a maximum cover of five years.
But under the proposed scheme, the Australian Lawyers Alliance says a 35-year-old, non-smoking woman on a full-time wage would have to pay $600 a year in private income protection insurance premiums to maintain her current level of income cover.
“The government is not content with creating a scheme that will line the pockets of insurers by reducing the value of claims made by NSW drivers and pedestrians, but now they are going to force people to take out additional costly insurance from those very same insurers,” said Andrew Stone from the Alliance.
“This move is going to hit hard-working families on a budget – the self-employed, tradies and manual workers need an income safety net to keep paying the bills for them and their families if injured.”
NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello said the Alliance’s claims were “alarmist and misleading” and the reforms will not require people to take out income cover.
“Under the current green slip scheme, injured people have to wait three to five years on average to receive income payments, from which significant legal fees are then deducted,” he said.
“Where the current system can leave people in financial stress and further traumatised by extended dispute resolution processes, the reforms will provide people with access for the first time to weekly income support if they need time off work to recover.”
He said the reforms would drive down premiums and improve support for injured people. He added that both lawyers and insurers were likely to make less money.
“It is not fair only 45 cents in every green slip dollar goes to injured road users, nor is it fair that NSW motorists are being asked to pay the highest premiums in the country,” he said.
Both the Alliance and the Law Society of NSW are campaigning against the reforms, based on concerns about the watered down right to receive compensation for lost income.
They also fear the reforms will lead to insurance companies, rather than doctors, gaining control over directing medical treatment and more motor victims fighting insurance companies without legal representation.
“The legal profession has put forward alternative proposals that deliver reduced premiums whilst preserving many of the benefits of the current scheme,” said Gary Ulman, president of the society.
About three years ago, Nathan Aylward suffered bleeding in the brain and injuries to his right eye, neck, right hand and knee after a 60-tonne truck struck his stationary vehicle just outside of Ballina, on the NSW North Coast.
He said some surgeries were delayed because he had to fight with his insurer for approval
He was eventually awarded $280,000 plus costs from the Transport Accident Commission after extensive negotiations. Part of that covered economic loss – about $21,620.00 for the past and $50,000.00 for the future.
“If the new plans go through, it’s a backward step. There’s no doubt I would’ve received a far smaller amount,” he said.
The Alliance said under the proposed scheme, Mr Aylward would not have received any allowance for future economic loss.
The Insurance Council of Australia said it didn’t believe the reforms would lead to an increase in the take-up of income protection insurance.
“Under the proposed reforms, injured road users will receive money for treatment and loss of income for up to five years,” said it spokesman Campbell Fuller.
“The final report of the CTP Reference Panel report indicates the number of minor-to-moderately-injured road users who still need treatment after five years is extremely small, and the report outlines options to provide them extra assistance,” he said.
“Many Australians already have income protection insurance through their superannuation fund or an arrangement with their employer.”
In addition, the council said the proposed no-fault scheme would provide benefits to about 7000 injured road users each year who at present aren’t eligible to claim any meaningful compensation.
Alex Collie head of the Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research at Monash University in Victoria, said he supports the reforms and rubbished the lawyers’ claims about the loss of income cover.
“The research evidence supports the proposed scheme design as being better for the health and recovery of injured people than the current scheme,” he said.
“The future system will provide access to income benefits to all injured motorists from early after the injury, which our studies have shown is important in enabling those people to meet their current living expenses while they are recovering from their injury.”
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