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Bourke Street attack: One month on, how will victims be compensated?

By Fiona Pepper

One month ago today, a car ploughed through the heart of Melbourne’s CBD resulting in the deaths of six people, injuring dozens and psychologically damaging countless more.

So how exactly will the victims of this tragedy be compensated?

The timing, location and nature of the crime make this question uniquely complex.

Victims sustained injuries from a car, therefore the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is involved.

Many of the victims were on a work lunch break, so WorkSafe is involved too.

And as it was a criminal act, Victims of Crime is, naturally, involved as well.

Victims of Crime commissioner Greg Davies compared the complexities of determining compensation payouts to “untying the Gordian knot”.

Stuart Le Grand, general manager of Shine Lawyers, is representing a number of the Bourke Street attack victims and said he had not come across a comparable case in his 17 years of working in personal injury law.

Two main compensation schemes

Mr Le Grand explained the two main compensation schemes at play would be TAC and WorkSafe; both schemes provide medical treatment, loss of wages, lump sum compensation and ongoing medical expenses.

“People who are affected by the Bourke Street tragedy will fall within one of two schemes.

“That is if someone was at work at the time or they were on a work lunch break, I anticipate that the compensation will be paid by the workers compensation scheme.

“If someone was visiting the city or they had no association with work, their compensation will be paid by the transport accident scheme.”

For those seriously injured or for the families of the deceased, Mr Le Grand explained compensation would be sought from either one of the schemes.

“In a scenario where a husband was at work on his lunch break and he was struck down and killed, then the dependency payments will be paid by WorkSafe,” he said.

“In a similar vein, if it didn’t have any involvement with work and someone was struck down and killed and they left behind family members who are financially dependent on the deceased, then those benefits would be paid under the TAC scheme.”

In regards to the Victims of Crime scheme, Mr Le Grand said it was capped, unlike TAC or WorkSafe, therefore it was unlikely to be the primary scheme for compensation.

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“You’d go for the schemes that are the most generous,” he said.

In addition to the statutory schemes, the Bourke Street fund will be paid to victims and the families of victims.

The unseen injuries

While the majority of physical injuries sustained from the Bourke Street attack presented themselves immediately, the psychological damage sustained by victims and those who witnessed the event are harder to identify.

Mr Le Grand said the overwhelming amount of claims would be for psychological damage, of which many victims may not be aware of for some time to come.

Huge cost to the Victorian Government

To date, the Victims of Crime helpline has received 965 referrals, an indication of the vast number of people impacted by the attack.

While it was still too early to determine, Mr Le Grand said the cost of compensation for the Victorian Government would be unprecedented.

“It will certainly result in hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid out for individual claims, and that’s not to mention the ongoing medical cost that will paid,” he said.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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