Published: 27 October 2016
Property owners need to be prepared for accidents and injury on private land
Nobody plans to have an accident on their farm or while out trail riding on their motorcycle. As lawyers we are approached by clients in this situation fairly often. The facts are that not registering a vehicle for use on private land can have catastrophic effects and can make or break lives.
It's not uncommon for farmers, particularly hobby farmers, who will be using a motorbike, quad bike, tractor or vehicle on the land to not register it, as road access or use is not required. The owners wrongly assume that this is a cost saving and one less thing to be concerned about.
Not registering a vehicle means you're not covered for loss of income, medical expenses and rehabilitation
The Transport Accident Act makes it clear that unregistered vehicles on private land are not covered by the Act.
This means that if the rider of a motorbike or vehicle is seriously injured they are not covered by the Act or the entitlements.
The Transport Accident Act covers injuries sustained in a transport accident involving a registered motor vehicle on private land. However, the TAC is unable to pay benefits to any person injured as a result of a transport accident involving an unregistered motor vehicle on private land because no transport accident charge has been paid. Motor vehicles include motor cars, motor cycles, trucks and buses that are used, designed or intended to be used on a highway.
What is the worse case scenario?
We recently worked on a case where motorbike injuries on the farm resulted in physical injury and a stroke for the breadwinner of the family. The bike was not registered and the family was left to cover all related medical expenses while also having to cover the cost of substitute labour. This severely affected their income and ultimately their livelihood.
Sadly, after months of rehabilitation, the accident was the catalyst for the family selling the farm and they needed to access superannuation in order to cover expenses. If they had been aware of the value of registering the bike, their financial status, health and well-being would be in a significantly stronger position.
How to register a farm vehicle to avoid catastrophe
For someone working on the land, the best ways to cover themselves and their families in the case of a vehicle accident is:
- Register all farm vehicles with the TAC. While this involves the one-off cost of obtaining a roadworthy certificate, the costs are likely to be minimal when compared to what is available with TAC coverage in the event of an accident involving injury;
- Work Cover insurance may cover costs of injuries if the farmer holds WorkCover insurance. Farmers who don't employ other staff often don't take out WorkCover insurance. The fine print also needs attention because farmer, `John Smith' will not be covered but "John Smith Pty Ltd' will generally be covered. This makes it important for the farming enterprise to be registered as a Proprietary Company, that employs the farmer and any other staff;
- Health and business insurance will also safeguard a farmer and loved ones.
If one person reads this article and thinks "Blow it, I better register my vehicle, it's not worth the risk" then this article is worth its time. At Stringer Clark we see the trauma and heart ache caused by accidents that nobody ever thought would happen to them, and we cannot reinforce enough how vital it is to insure vehicles being used on private land.
Registration of a road worthy vehicle in a rural area costs between $145 and $675 depending on the size of the vehicle. For further information on registration costs and process visit https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/registration/registration-fees.