Truck accident compensation (Vic)
In Australia, accidents involving trucks are unfortunately very common.
And many people assume that it’s the trucks that are the cause of most of these accidents.
However, research has shown that 80% of fatal accidents involving cars and trucks in Australia have been due to the fault of the car driver (data released by the National Truck Accident Research Centre in 2019).
The research also showed:
- That 90% of fatal crashes involving a truck and a car occur outside major cities.
- In non-fatal car and truck accidents, trucks are at fault in 60.5% of cases.
- In cases where the car was at fault, nearly half of the crashes happened when the vehicles were travelling in opposite directions. Just over a quarter happened at intersections.
- Only 11.1 per cent of these crashes occurred when the vehicles were travelling in the same direction.
- Fatigue was linked to 34 percent of deaths.
Factors contributing to truck accidents
- Trucks, when fully loaded, can weigh up to 40 tonnes, with the average car weighing 1.4 tonnes.
- Because of their length, many trucks can have large blind spots particularly on the passenger side. Many accidents occur as a result of trucks changing lanes and not seeing cars on the passenger side. This is an area where car drivers are encouraged to stay away from. If you can’t see the truck driver in the mirror, then it’s likely the driver can’t see you.
- And because of the weight of a truck, it can take a long distance for a truck to stop – much more than cars. Many car drivers don’t understand how long it takes for a truck to stop.
- Trucks can tip over due to the high centre of gravity which can cause trucks to roll over.
- Distracted driving, by either truck driver or other road users.
- Driver fatigue.
- Truck defects and maintenance issues.
- Aggressive driving by the truck driver or car driver.
- Lack of driver training and experience.
- Driving under the influence.
- Distracted driving.
Given the prevalence of car and truck accidents in Australia, many people wonder how they go about obtaining compensation when they’re involved in an accident in which a truck was involved.
This article will look at the options available for those truckdrivers who were involved in an accident, as well as for car and other road users who might have been involved in an accident with a truck.
If you were driving the truck
If you were driving the truck and you were involved in an accident with another vehicle, even if you were at fault, you are likely able to obtain assistance from either the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) or WorkCover.
If another party was at fault for the accident, you may be able to pursue common law damages (that is, sue the at fault party for their negligence).
The first thing to consider is who is the appropriate body to claim under.
This depends on how and when the accident occurred.
If the accident occurred while you were working
If you were driving a truck and you’re involved in a collision, then generally speaking your no fault benefits will be covered by WorkCover and any common law entitlement will be covered by the TAC.
This means that under WorkCover, you would be entitled to claim the payment of any medical expenses that you need (provided they consider the expenses ‘reasonable’), as well as income replacement benefits for up to 130 weeks if your ability to work impacted.
It’s important to note however that you likely will not be compensated 100% for any lost earnings under WorkCover.
You’re able to obtain payments in addition to 130 weeks if you do not have a work capacity.
In addition to this, regardless as to whether you were at fault or the other driver was at fault, if you suffer a permanent impairment whilst driving your truck during the course of your employment, you can pursue an impairment benefit lump sum.
This is lump sum compensation for permanent impairment that reaches a threshold in terms of its severity.
It involves the injury or injuries that you suffered in the truck accident getting assessed by a specialist doctor or doctor who grades any injuries by putting percentage figures on them.
Your overall percentage figure then matches up to a compensation amount.
If you were not at fault for the accident and another party was, then you can pursue a common law claim for damages.
This is a lump sum claim where you can potentially obtain compensation for pain and suffering and lost earnings.
It would be payable by the TAC rather than WorkCover.
In order to succeed you need to show firstly that there was negligence on behalf of another party and that caused the accident and your injuries.
Secondly, you need to show that as a consequence of the accident you suffered a serious injury.
For more information in relation to a common law claim you can read this page.
Covered not just when driving a truck
It’s important to know that you are covered in more situations as a truck driver than simply when you are behind the wheel driving.
You’ll be covered if for example you suffer injury while you are loading or unloading goods from your truck or when you suffer injury that arises out of the use of the vehicle.
Another example of this might be if you were doing maintenance on the truck and suffer injury.
If you are an employee, the owner of the vehicle will likely have two forms of insurance, that is coverage by the TAC as well as WorkCover insurance.
If the accident occurred travelling to or from work
If you were involved in an accident driving to or from your work as a truck driver, then you are entitled to obtain benefits from the TAC rather than from WorkCover.
This applies whether or not you are driving your own private vehicle or whether, like some truck drivers, you are driving the truck that is kept at your house to a depot or elsewhere.
It also applies if you are travelling between different employers or travelling to obtain medical treatment, or if you’re travelling to a place of training that your employer expects you to attend.
As in the above example where you were driving your truck for work, you will be entitled to claim medical expenses if required, income replacement benefits as well as an impairment benefit lump sum if you suffer permanent impairment.
You are able to claim these three benefits regardless as to whether you were at fault for the accident or someone else was.
And like the example above, if another party was at fault for the accident that you’re involved in whilst you are travelling to and from work, then you can potentially pursue a common law claim for damages.
If you were in another vehicle other than the truck
If you’re involved in an accident with a truck, assuming you were not working at the time of the accident, then you are entitled to claim benefits from the TAC.
This applies regardless as to whether you’re at fault for the accident or not.
Even if you were at fault for the accident, then in many cases you can still claim medical and like expenses, income replacement benefits as well as an impairment benefit lump sum.
If the truck is found to be at fault, then you can also pursue a common law claim for damages if you suffered a serious injury in the accident.
If you have been involved in an accident in which a truck was involved – whether you were driving the truck or you were in the other vehicle, you may be entitled to pursue either WorkCover or TAC benefits.
If you were the truck driver, keep in mind that you’re covered in a broader range of situations than just driving your truck for work. You may be covered driving to or from work, and you may also be covered in other situations such as loading and unloading your truck and performing maintenance.