There has long been debate between road users about whether cyclists should be registering their vehicles (that is, their bikes) if they are using our public roads. Simply registering a bike because it uses the road and therefore should contribute to the upkeep of that road (even though they have little impact on road deterioration), misses a vital point. Currently cyclists are not paying any TAC fee for personal injury insurance, in the event of a road accident.
Registration of vehicles in Victoria is not just about payment for use of the roads. The much more important issue is who should be protected by personal injury insurance when using a vehicle? Vehicle registration levies in Victoria include an insurance component which goes to the Transport Accident Commission (“the TAC”). The TAC is a compulsory insurance scheme which provides benefits and compensation to people injured in a range of circumstances involving motor vehicle accidents.
Because cyclists do not register their vehicles, coverage for injured cyclists, or people a cyclist may cause injury to under the TAC scheme, is patchy and depends heavily on the circumstances leading to a crash.
There is some cover for cyclists in road accidents, but not comprehensive cover
Amendments to the law in 2018 (called “Rory’s Law”) improved access to compensation for cyclists injured or killed as a result of hitting stationary vehicles. However, injured cyclists and pedestrians injured by cyclists on Victorian roads are still subject to mind boggling and unfair loop-holes which are arbitrary and create uncertainty for people injured on Victoria’s roads.
For instance, cyclists, pedestrians and other road users injured in crashes involving a motor vehicle can be covered by the TAC for benefits and entitlements including:
- medical expenses;
- wage support; and
- lump sum compensation where a crash is caused by a motor vehicle resulting in injury or death to a cyclist.
But cyclists are not protected where the injury is caused by another cyclist or where no motor vehicle is involved.
What happens when a cyclist causes injury on our roads?
The lack of TAC insurance coverage also poses a problem for people injured by negligent cyclists.
If a cyclist causes an injury to a pedestrian, neither the pedestrian nor the cyclist has the benefit of TAC insurance. As a result, this often means that either;
- The pedestrian makes a claim against the personal assets of the cyclist; or
- Where the cyclist is unidentified or has insufficient funds to pay compensation and legal costs, the pedestrian receives no support or compensation for lost wages, medical expenses or for pain and suffering.
What treatment will TAC pre-approve?
The TAC will now automatically approve many treatments and services including:
- surgery within 3 months of an accident;
- x-rays and scans;
- chiropractic treatment;
- osteopathy; and
- psychological treatment.
If your doctor recommends any of these treatments, you no longer need to contact the TAC for approval on each occasion.
Instead, you can make an medical appointment and provide your TAC claim number and your health provider should send the bill directly to the TAC. This is a positive step towards you getting the treatment you need to recover.
There is a stark difference between injury to a cyclist in a single vehicle accident and injury to a motor vehicle in a single vehicle accident
A motorcyclist who makes an error and strikes a tree or a pole will be covered by the TAC, including for medical benefits for as long as they reasonably require treatment for their accident injuries.
A cyclist in the same circumstances receives no TAC benefits or support, and as a result, the public incurs the cost of medical treatment via the Medicare or subsidised private health systems.
What might TAC insurance for cyclists cost?
TAC insurance for cyclists needn’t cost much. The maximum annual TAC charge for small motorbikes (under 61cc) is just $43.45.
An insurance charge would also need to have sensible exemptions – for instance, bicycles used by children under a certain age.
Perhaps instead of pointing the finger about who should bear the cost of using the road, we should be discussing whether we can afford for cyclists not to have the kind of insurance protections and obligations that other road users have. These are protections not just for the injured cyclist but for any pedestrians too.
A rethink in relation to insurance for cyclists could be a win for cyclists, those injured by them, and for the public health system.