Victoria’s transport industry advocacy body is supporting two former truck drivers in their fight to close a loophole in pedestrian road tragedy compensation.
The Victorian Transport Association is supporting two truck drivers’ fight to access pain and suffering compensation
A Geelong lawyer is sending a proposal to the Victorian government to fix a legal loophole
One traumatized truck driver’s wife has come out of retirement to help support their family
Portland man Ian Medley and Geelong man Kevin Reggardo were both driving for work when pedestrians were hit through no fault of the driver.
Both men said they were traumatized after witnessing the tragic deaths. They have been unable to return to work and regular life activities no longer brought them joy.
Mr Medley and Mr Reggardo have accessed limited compensation under the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) no-fault scheme, but were unable to seek damages for the pain and suffering they have experienced.
This is due to a loophole that left no insurer to claim against on behalf of the pedestrian.
The men’s lawyer, Tom Burgoyne, principal at Fortitude Legal, said the legislation could be changed to allow TAC to act as the nominal defendant for damage and pay the claim.
This is currently the case when an unregistered motorist with no insurer to claim against deliberately drives into a truck.
Left with long-lasting trauma
Kevin Reggardo’s wife of 35 years, Sue Bickerton, said she had to come out of retirement to work three jobs in aged care and hospitality to make up for the family’s financial loss since the 2018 incident.
She is urging the Victorian government to change the law to enable truck drivers who experience tragedy, like her husband, access to compensation for their pain and suffering.
“Kevin left for work that morning and that Kevin will never come home again,” Ms Bickerton said.
“He got up for work, loved his job, off he went, ‘See you later, love’.
“From that day on, I have had to learn to live with another person in a totally different relationship.”
Ms Bickerton said the tragic incident during a regular day at work up-ended their lives.
“I have had to be the support person, the counselor, the one that sits up with him at night-time while he goes through the incident again and again,” she said.
“I am the one getting him to get some confidence to hop in the car again, to deal with anxiety when he sees people on the side of the road.”
A ‘time of need’
Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said it was sad “the system” had let truck drivers down in their “time of need”, and backed calls for change.
He said it had ripple effects throughout an industry that was experiencing severe staff shortages.
“Incidents like these don’t enhance the image of our industry,” Mr Anderson said.
“When people say they don’t want to come back, it puts other people off as well because they don’t want to go through these experiences either.
“How we make sure this never happens again is difficult, but we should have a greater level of support and understanding for those who have gone through it.”
A proposal for change
A Victorian government spokesperson said it would consider ways to further support victims of road trauma and workplace incidents.
“This is a complex area of law that crosses over into several areas of government,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Burgoyne’s proposal to the Victorian government is for TAC to step in as the nominal defendant for pedestrians in “strict scenarios”, but not to provide comprehensive coverage for pedestrians.
He said the “strict scenario” would include when the heavy vehicle driver was found blameless, and it had been established that the pedestrian moved into the path of the vehicle.
“This is unfortunately an occupational hazard, and a legal and insurance abyss for damages,” Mr Burgoyne said.