The status of mobility scooters in the South Australian, Compulsory Third Party Scheme
In March 2011, Monash University (commissioned by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), produced a report titled the Targeted Study of Injury Data Involving Motorised Mobility Scooters. This report indicated that in just a two year period from July 2006 to June 2008, there were 442 motorised mobility scooter fall injury hospitalisations.
More alarmingly, this figure is significantly lower than the total number of motorised mobility scooter hospitalisations for the same period, as the code used to identify mobility scooter hospitalisations is restricted to fall injuries, and excludes motor vehicle collisions and crash injuries where no fall is involved.
In an ageing Australia, motorised mobility scooters are becoming increasingly common, with accidents and injuries resulting from collisions involving these vehicles are also on the rise.
Where injured parties stand in relation to claims for their injuries is not always clear. Does their claim lie against a CTP insurer, a public liability insurer, or is it an uninsured claim?
In South Australia, pursuant to Section 12A of the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA) (the Act), mobility scooters (defined as self-propelled wheelchairs under the Act) may be driven on roads without registration or insurance by a person who, because of some physical infirmity, reasonably requires the use of a wheelchair or such a motor vehicle. Additionally, a self-propelled wheelchair or other motor vehicle to which Section 12A(1) applies is subject to the third party insurance scheme under Part 4 of the Act, pursuant to Section 12A(2) of the Act.
What does this mean?
If a third party is injured by a mobility scooter while on a road, then the third party will ultimately be able to bring a claim under the compulsory third party insurance scheme, irrespective of the registration or insurance status of the mobility scooter.
A road is defined by the Act to include a road related area such as a footpath. For a more in-depth discussion of what can be considered a road, please see our article 'When is a road a road?'
However, if the accident which led to the injury did not occur on a road or road related area, then the third party will not be able to bring a claim against the CTP insurer. Instead, they would need to bring a claim against the driver of the mobility scooter personally for any injuries that they suffer, giving consideration to whether the mobility scooter driver is covered by their public liability insurer (such as through their home and contents insurance policy).
There is of course the possibility that any public liability insurance policy may not answer to the third party’s claim or alternatively, that there is no insurance policy in force as at the date of the accident.
It is therefore easy to envisage situations where the third party’s claims may be unsatisfied even if judgment is found in favour of the third party.
Consequently, there are recent calls for law reforms (most recently by the Australian Lawyers Alliance) to remedy the gaps in cover for mobility scooters. We watch for developments in anticipation.