Ordinarily, if a person is injured or dies as a result of a transport accident in Victoria which involved the driving of a registered vehicle (Victorian or interstate equivalent), that person or their surviving dependants can make a claim for compensation under the TAC scheme. It wouldn’t matter if the injured person was the driver, passenger, motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian in that scenario.
If the motor vehicle involved in the transport accident was unregistered or uninsured, this can impact the injured person’s eligibility to compensation under the TAC scheme.
TAC claims and unregistered vehicles
Where the motor vehicle involved in the transport accident was never registered (see definition below) and was used on private land at the time of the accident, the TAC is not liable to pay compensation to those who are injured or die as a result of that transport accident. However, if the vehicle was capable of being registered with VicRoads, the injured person may still be covered by TAC.
Examples of vehicles which cannot be registered are electric scooters (output less than 200 watts), electric bicycles (output less than 200 watts), motorised wheel chairs (10kmph limit) and golf carts.
TAC claims and uninsured vehicles
If the motor vehicle in the transport accident was uninsured (see definition below) at the time of the accident and the accident happened on private land, the owner of that uninsured vehicle is excluded from claiming compensation under the TAC scheme.
However, if the owner of the uninsured vehicle was involved in an accident on a highway, they will be covered by TAC.
Non-owner passengers and non-owner drivers of the uninsured vehicle are still entitled to make a TAC claim if they are injured as a result of a transport accident involving an uninsured vehicle on private land.
Unregistered: a motor vehicle which has never been registered under the Road Safety Act (Vic Roads or an interstate equivalent) and where a transport accident charge had not been paid at the time of the transport accident.
Uninsured: a motor vehicle which was previously appropriately registered but the owner has failed to pay/renew their registration (which includes the transport accident charge) for at least 12 months.
Private land: any land, whether publicly or privately owned that is not a highway and members of the public may not enter or may not remain on without permission.
Examples of when TAC benefits can be claimed if the vehicle was unregistered or uninsured?
- A person (owner or non- owner of the vehicle) in an unregistered or uninsured motor vehicle that is driven on a highway i.e. a typical road or road related area which is open to or used by the public with or without permission.
- A non-owner passenger or driver injured as a result of a transport accident in an uninsured motor vehicle on private land.
Please note that in each of the above scenarios, the ‘transport accident’ definition (An incident directly caused by the driving of a motor car, or motor vehicle, a railway train or tram) still needs to be satisfied before the injured person will be eligible to make a TAC claim for compensation. This includes the majority of accidents involving the driving of a motor vehicle.
Examples of what was found to be a “transport accident”
Unregistered motorbike driven on a farm
In the case of Nugent v TAC (1999) VCAT, initially, the TAC argued that the motorbike was not a motor vehicle and then it was held that the motorbike satisfied the definition of a “motor vehicle” as it was regularly used on a “highway”. The farm was considered to be a highway because the land was open to the public and subject to a government lease and so, the accident was held to be a transport accident.
Unregistered bulldozer which was not used on a typical road
In the case or Smith v TAC  VSCA, an unregistered bulldozer struck a tree and caused the branch to fall on the plaintiff. There were no seatbelts, lights or horn on the bulldozer and it hadn’t been used on a highway (i.e. a typical road or road-related area). The bulldozer predominately travelled from coupe to coupe (i.e. a road created by a bulldozer to enable access to other areas).
The TAC argued that the bulldozer did not meet the definition of a motor vehicle used on a highway and so the plaintiff was excluded from TAC compensation. The plaintiff argued that coupes were open to the public such as protestors and tree fellers and should be considered a highway.
It was held that the bulldozer was a motor vehicle as it was used on a highway (the coupe being determined to be a highway under the relevant definition) and so, the accident was considered a transport accident.
Forklift used on private land
In the case of TVH Australasia Pty Ltd v Chaseling (2012) (NSW CA), the plaintiff was injured when a box fell from a forklift onto his leg whilst he was assisting with the unloading of a shipping container. The tines (the forks) of the forklift used to lift the pallets were spread to counter the flexibility of the pallets, making the load unstable.
The TAC originally argued that the injury was not caused by the fault of the driver of the forklift and thus, did not meet the definition of injury under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act. The Court held that the forklift was considered to be a motor vehicle and the incident was a transport accident as the injury was caused by the fault of the forklift driver. The Court found that there was no contributory negligence on the part of the injured plaintiff.
Although the TAC scheme was predominantly designed to benefit those who are injured or die as a result of a transport accident, there are some important exclusions to be aware of under the scheme.
The Transport Accident Act 1986 aims to deter and penalise people from driving unregistered and uninsured motor vehicles. Whether the injured person is entitled to TAC compensation or not can be complicated. If you were injured and the motor vehicle involved in the accident was either unregistered or uninsured you should seek legal advice.