NSW Green Slip: Rights and Legal Work Slipping Away
Posted at Legal Practice Intelligence - 4 July 2016
New South Wales Bar Association:
The Government’s announcement that it will proceed with a CTP reform model which concentrates upon time restricted and modest no fault benefits (as opposed to common law remedies) for all but the most seriously injured will adversely affect many thousands of innocent motor accident victims, the President of the New South Wales Bar Association, Noel Hutley SC, said today.
“The experience with workers compensation changes under the current Government gives us little optimism that the rights of innocent victims of motor accidents will be protected” Mr Hutley said. “The Bar Association is deeply concerned that the Government is heading towards a workers compensation-style scheme. Under that system 90% of the injured, including many with serious injuries, receive limited statutory benefits and have minimal access to legal representation. That leaves them to deal on their own with powerful insurance companies whose major priority is profit, not the best interests of the injured.”
“The largest flaw in the proposed new scheme is the assumption that there are only two categories of injury – “low severity” and “the most seriously injured”. There is in fact a wide group in between – moderate severity injury. It is this group that are being punished” said Mr Hutley.
The following examples illustrate the point.
• A labourer with an ankle fusion does not get over the government threshold for serious injury and receives 80% of their pre-accident income for five years before being abandoned to social security benefits;
• A nurse with a shoulder injury may have to leave the nursing profession but will not be covered for lost earnings beyond five years;
• An apprentice with an injured knee may need two future knee replacements in their thirties and fifties but will not be covered for those medical expenses.
These are all examples of moderate injury and are ignored by the simplistic division between “low severity” and “the most seriously injured”.
“If this approach is replicated in the CTP scheme, the interests of injured motorists seeking reviews of insurer decisions on the payment of statutory benefits will suffer, and those insurers will have the ultimate say in the vast majority of claims” said Mr Hutley.
“The Bar Association has participated in good faith in the Government’s CTP consultation process up to this point. Our submissions have proposed fair reforms so that small claims costs can be reined in, creating long term stability in the CTP Scheme. Apparently there is to be a further month of consultation to address issues of “fairness” in the CTP scheme. It is a tragedy for moderately injured accident victims that fairness to them is an afterthought rather than the bedrock of the reforms” Mr Hutley said.
“The Bar Association calls on the Government to protect the rights of innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents by retaining fairness in the CTP scheme. A real scheme should protect the future wage loss and future treatment needs of accident victims. This reform would abandon 90% of accident victims after just a few years.”
Law Society of NSW:
Who really pays for the NSW Government’s green slip price cut?
The Government’s new CTP Green Slip Scheme that was announced today will see injured motorists and their families paying for dangerous drivers in New South Wales.
Law Society of NSW President, Gary Ulman, said the new CTP scheme will reduce benefits for up to 95 per cent of injured motorists in NSW, whilst supporting around 7,000 “at fault” drivers.
“To pay for the government’s CTP scheme even people with severe injuries which stop them from doing their jobs will be forced to rely on welfare or family when their benefits are cut off after 5 years.
Mr Ulman said the impact of the government’s reforms will see a workers’ compensation type scheme for those injured in motor vehicle accidents.
“This will be particularly unfair for those who had a long working life ahead of them before their accident – like Sandra.
“After being injured in a motor accident, 30 year old Sandra’s café cart business folded as she was unable to work due to her injuries,” Mr Ulman said.
“Sandra hasn’t been able to work since the accident, is in constant pain and cannot walk without the use of a walking stick. She is highly dependent on her family and has little or no prospect of retuning to full work.
“Assessed at not greater than 10% impaired, under the government’s new scheme, Sandra’s benefits would be cut off after 5 years and she would be left to rely on welfare payments or family for support. She now faces further back surgery.
Mr Ulman said injured motorists will sooner or later be abandoned to rely on welfare or family support through no fault of their own – motorists like Mark.
“Mark from Parramatta, a 43-year-old male cementing business owner with five young children, was rear ended by a semi-trailer,” Mr Ulman said.
“Mark suffered whiplash and injured both back and neck in the accident. He now has permanent serious problems with his shoulders and neck and the impact on the family has also been huge.
“Due to his injuries, Mark is unable to return to his job but isn’t qualified to do other work.
“Because Mark’s ‘whole person impairment’ is less than the 10% threshold, his benefits will be cut off after 5 years, even if he can’t do his job.
“Under the government’s new scheme, injured motorists like Sandra and Mark will face a lifetime of pain and financial uncertainty,” Mr Ulman said.
Mr Ulman said that anybody who uses the roads in this state should be worried about the Government’s proposed CTP changes.
“We know that the real aim of the changes is to deliver CTP premium reductions to marginal seats in NSW ahead of the next state election – but this can only be achieved at a huge social cost to the community.
“We are urging people to raise this critical issue with your local parliamentarian to help ensure there is equity in the motor accident claims process.
1. Daniel, a 27-year-old road worker from Taree married with young children. Daniel had a head-on collision with a truck which travelling on to the wrong side of the road. His legs were crushed, and he suffered whiplash neck injury and injury to both shoulders. Daniel required surgery to his knees and two operations on his shoulders, and he now has permanent serious problems with knees, shoulders and neck and is unable to return to job. Under the government’s new scheme Daniel would lose his benefits after 5 years and would have to rely on family support or welfare for the rest of his life.
Changes to green slips in NSW will see thousands of seriously injured motorists, passengers and pedestrians who are unable to work lose their rights to compensation, with only an empty promise from the Government to reign in insurance company super profits.
Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge said:
“It is simply untrue that this change is focused on rehabilitation when the Governments proposed savings can only happen if people with serious injuries are denied benefits.
“There’s no magic solution that sees green slip prices cut and benefits retained, the truth is that thousands of people who are injured through no fault of their own face a life of poverty if these changes are rushed through Parliament.
“The people who will be most affected by these changes are manual workers, those in construction, nurses, and retail and hospitality workers, who need to be physically fit to keep their job.
“Basing this scheme on percentage of whole person impairment with those at 10% or less cut off will deliver exactly the same kind of injustice as the workers compensation scheme.
“In fact, this will put in place a threshold that is even harsher than the very controversial one that applies since the controversial 2012 workers compensation reforms.
“The detail of the Government’s legislation will coincide with the delivery of a report from the Law and Justice Committee that is reviewing the reform proposal and the current scheme performance.
“We have already seen in the evidence of that committee how the Government’s proposed reforms would leave many people with serious back, neck and leg injuries with grossly inadequate compensation, struggling to survive on welfare.
“It will be cold comfort to a motorist to have save $70 on their greenslip premium only to have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of compensation when they really need it after a motor accident,” Mr Shoebridge said.