Families demand CTP overhaul after being forced to 'prove their grief'

Leanne Shanahan didn't know what to expect when she sat down with NRMA on the day her daughter's CTP green slip insurance claim was to be settled.

Families demand CTP overhaul after being forced to 'prove their grief'

Leanne Shanahan didn't know what to expect when she sat down with NRMA on the day her daughter's CTP green slip insurance claim was to be settled.

It wasn't the 200-page dossier presented to her, which documented her daughter's every move on social media.

The hefty file took in Mikayla's Facebook, Tik Tok, Trip Advisor and YouTube use. It analysed her posts, her hairstyles, weight, an overseas holiday and the addition of a tattoo.

It concluded Mikayla should be denied her damages claim for pain and suffering, otherwise known as whole person impairment, over her brother's fatal car accident.

In its final assessment, NRMA found that her brother's untimely death, when Mikayla was 16 years old - and the mental health issues that she suffered because of it - only amounted to her being impaired by 6 per cent.

For a CTP damages claim to be accepted by insurers, a person must be judged to have an impairment of more than 10 per cent.

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That meeting was in December last year.

It had been five years since Ms Shanahan lost Luke, 21, and Mikayla lost her brother, in the most tragic of circumstances.

Luke was killed in August 2015 when an 18-year-old P-plate driver of the car he was a passenger in fell asleep at the wheel.

The group had been coming back to Freshwater in Sydney's north east from a Lithgow music festival. The Mitsubishi Outlander the P-plater was driving ploughed into an oncoming Subaru.

Luke and two other young men in the backseat died on impact.

The day and months after the crash passed by in a haze of shattered grief for Ms Shanahan, but she says she managed to take the advice given to her by another victim's family and lodge a CTP claim for both her and her daughter within three months of the accident.

NSW drivers pay hundreds of dollars a year into CTP to ensure victims of accidents are compensated for injuries, treatment, and time off work.

This includes the family members of accident victims who often need extensive time off work, or are in some cases unable to return to their jobs, due to the psychological impact of their grief.

An overhaul of the Motor Accident Injuries Act by the state government in 2017 made it easier for victims to claim immediate costs for medical appointments and temporary benefits for time off work under the CTP scheme.

However, families say claims for lump sum damages can, and usually do, drag out for years under the current system.

Relatives of victims have recently started to speak out about the trauma involved in having to prove the mental health damage caused by their grief to insurance companies, often through multiple assessments with psychologists.

An started by Sydney mother Kay Dagli, who lost her daughter in a car accident in 2019, calling for the 10 percent impairment rule to be changed, has so far attracted more than 7000 signatures.

For Ms Shanahan, who is a single mother, her claim took three years to complete; her daughter's stretched on for more than five years.

"The process is horrific," Ms Shanahan said.

"It forces you to prove that you are impaired at 11 percent, which makes no sense, because everyone knows that when you lose a child or a loved one in a horrific car accident you are impaired by 99.9 percent."

"You walk into all these appointments with psychologists, and they judge you by how you look, whether your nails have been done or your hair has been washed.

"For anyone who has been in this situation, we just want to be in a foetal position in bed."

A few months after the crash, Ms Shanahan tried to go back to her job as a business manager.

"I just couldn't do it, I just started to get the shakes. My head was not in the space for multitasking

"I just kept on going to the doctors and breaking down. I couldn't stop crying and they put me on antidepressants."

Her position was made redundant and Ms Shanahan now works part-time in a child-care centre.

Ms Shanahan said when her claim for damages was originally assessed by NRMA, she was deemed to be impaired by less than 10 percent.

After her lawyer appealed the decision, she was required to sit before a panel of psychologists for another assessment.

"I had to sit in a board room with three psychologists and they are the ones that said I was 18 percent impaired. That's why my claim was finally approved," she said.

Ms Shanahan said her daughter was also struggling to cope with her brother's death and had to drop out of her university course.

Nobody, whether they were teens or adults, presented the true picture of their lives on social media and Mikayla was no exception, her mother said.

"My daughter was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder with anxious distress and they assessed her with an impairment of six percent with that, it is just ridiculous," she said.

'I don't want other families to endure this'

Ms Dagli, who started the Change.org petition, says she had also been left traumatised by her CTP claim with NRMA, which is still ongoing.

She has been diagnosed with PTSD and spent three months in a mental health clinic after her 19-year-old daughter Shalaney was killed while travelling in the backseat of a car with her friend in April 2019.

"I miss her every minute of every day. We were very close, she always used to say she was my best friend. Not having her here is killing me," she said.

Shalaney Velasquez was 19 when a car she was a passenger in crashed into the bus, which had been sitting in a breakdown lane on the M5 in Sydney's south-west.

Ms Dagli, who worked full time to help children with disabilities before her daughter's death, said she had so far been to five assessments with psychologists as part of her insurance claim.

At one she fainted and in the others she broke down and was inconsolable.

"It is just ridiculous that I have to keep on explaining my grief," she said.

"I can't do it anymore. Why do I have to keep proving that we have all died inside?

"This has been going on and on because they want me to stop, to leave them alone and walk away like nothing happened."

This year, a Road Trauma Support Group NSW was set up by NSW Police for the families of car crash victims.

Group member Duncan Wakes-Millar said one of the issues high on the agenda for the group was to advocate for reforms to the CTP insurance scheme.

Many grieving family members in the group had shared their traumatic experiences of dealing with insurance companies, he said.

"Road trauma is a significant mental health issue for families and friends of loved ones killed by a criminal act of another, the CTP system in its current form falls woefully short of providing an adequate provision for victims of road trauma," Mr Wakes-Millar said.

"If scrutinised it would be an embarrassment to the integrity of the insurance industry in Australia."

Ms Dagli said it was obvious the system needed to change.

"It has completely ruined me emotionally and mentally to have to keep proving how my daughter's death has affected me," she said.

"It's torture. I don't want other families to endure this."

A spokesperson for The State Insurance Regulatory Agency (SIRA) said a review of the Motor Accident Injuries Act, which provides guidelines for expectations and rules for insurers is currently underway.

The review will consider all aspects of the 2017 CTP scheme, the spokesperson said.

"The review will assess whether the policy objectives of the Act remain valid, and whether the terms remain appropriate for securing those objectives.

The public consultation stage of the review will run until August 2.

An NRMA insurance spokesperson said: "Losing a loved one in a motor vehicle accident is a tragedy, and we aim to provide as much compassion and support as possible for everyone during the management of their claim.

"We also continue to review any new information we're provided to ensure people receive the benefits they are entitled to under the legislation."

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at emcpherson@nine.com.au.

Source : 9 News More   

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Mayor says vaccine focus 'much too late' for hotspot suburbs

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called for more vaccines for Sydney coronavirus hotspots as the outbreak continues to spread.

Mayor says vaccine focus 'much too late' for hotspot suburbs

The mayor of a Sydney council area hit by increased restrictions has slammed the NSW Government over delays in a targeted vaccine strategy for communities battling COVID-19.

Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou's comments come after NSW today called for a vaccination drive focused on hotspot areas now facing even tougher lockdown restrictions amid the ongoing outbreak.

"I've been calling for an increased rollout of vaccines for western Sydney for weeks, but unfortunately this intensive vaccination program announced today comes much too late," Cr Christou said in a statement.

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Premier Gladys Berejiklian today called for more vaccines for hotspots, saying she would be broaching the topic at this afternoon's National Cabinet meeting.

"We need to have a discussion about refocusing the national vaccination strategy," Ms Berejiklian said after announcing 136 new cases today.

"We need to get more of them into arms, even if it is a first jab, because we know that reduces transmission or protects someone up to 30 per cent and that is very important."

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She said she would also seek to have "any additional supplies that could be brought forward to NSW to support us".

NSW Health today confirmed they would be rolling out vaccination hubs using facilities in the Cumberland area but Cr Chirstou said this was "of little comfort" to the community.

"We offered our facilities and offered to run a vaccination program weeks ago and this lack of action is having a devastating impact on our community," Cr Christou said.

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A health worker is seen in a medical centre in Lakemba in Sydney which offers COVID-19 vaccines.

Cr Christou said he was "outraged" at the suggestion that Bunnings and Officeworks stores could be transformed into vaccination hubs, labelling the idea "ridiculous and irresponsible".

"There are hundreds of councils across Australia who are ready, willing and able to roll out a mass vaccination program. We have the facilities and staff to assist," he said.

In his statement, Cr Christou reassured his constituents support and resources would be made available to NSW Health to help bring this virus under control.

"I understand this is a challenging time for our residents and businesses. We're doing everything we can to get our community through this."

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said more vaccines needed to be distributed to hotspot areas in south-western and western Sydney.

"I have indicated to the government that we need an intensive vaccination program using both Pfizer and AstraZeneca in that area," Dr Chant said.

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People wait for their COVID-19 vaccination at a pop-up clinic at Gurdwara Sahib Temple in Glenwood.

"I would recommend to anyone NSW to make a booking for AstraZeneca, regardless of where they live, whilst we are developing a very targeted at intensive strategy in south-western Sydney."

She called for young people to come forward for their vaccines.

"We need to vaccinate younger people, between that 20 and 40-year-old age group," she said.

"They are that workforce that are doing those critical jobs. And we also need to maximise jabs of AstraZeneca anywhere we can get them.

"That is my strong advice."

Dr Chant said the mythology about AstraZeneca needed to be corrected.

She and her husband have both had the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The health officer described the risks of AstraZeneca as being "infinitesimally small" compared to the benefits.

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People getting their vaccines at the The Rev Bill Crews Foundation in Ashfield, Sydney.

"In the context of the Delta threat, I just cannot understand why people would not be taking the opportunity to go out and get AstraZeneca in droves," Dr Chant said.

"Anyone over 40, go and get vaccinated. Anyone under 40, consider it. If I was living in some of those areas, I would certainly be having AstraZeneca."

Health Minister Brad Hazzard described getting vaccinated as a "duty" for people in Sydney.

"The national emergency, every citizen has a duty to do what they can to defeat whatever is happening to us - in this case, it is a Delta variant of a virus," Mr Hazzard said.

"Can I just remind citizens, especially in south-western and Western Sydney, that duty would absolutely be addressed if you would go and get vaccinated."

Since February, 3.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in NSW.

A new daily record of 25,610 coronavirus vaccines were administered by NSW Health yesterday.

More than 8000 were given at the vaccination centre at Sydney Olympic Park.

There were 136 new local cases of coronavirus in the state, with 137 people are in hospital with the disease.

Of those hospitalised, 32 are in intensive care.

Source : 9 News More   

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