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Legal History | Australian Structured Settlements and Structured Orders | What Happens If You're a Victim

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The Civil Justice AwardThis space is designed for promoting the reform of the Motor Accidents Act. It also contains the legal history of Judie and her grandson, Jackson. It is very difficult for those who are injured or lose relatives in a motor accident. Following a motor accident, and depending on the degree of the claimants injuries, victims are often incapable of work and participation in daily activities. The legal system can also be complicated and it needs to be understood correctly, otherwise it can add to the burden of painful memories and the feeling of loss. Since Judie lost her beloved daughter and son-in-law, she has channelled her energies into a determination to reform the Motor Accident Act NSW, Australia. She wants to make sure people receive the right treatment and adequate compensation from the responsible insurers, so other people do not need to take the same difficult journey.

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2002 News - Structured Settlements and Structured Orders

Can you imagine someone who has been catastrophically injured receiving a lump sum and being expected to manage it competently for the rest of their lives? Indeed, some people are totally capable but others are extremely vulnerable and need to be protected. Thanks to our Federal Parliament the solution has evolved in the form of Structured Settlements and Structured Orders.

Structured Settlements are available when a Plaintiff and Defendant agree at settlement or in Court. Structured Orders apply when a Plaintiff and Defendant cannot agree on settlement or a Structured Settlement in Court and then a Judge may make a Structured Order. These Structures are in a form on an indexed life-time annuity to pay for care, rehabilitation and medical needs.

As a result we have an extremely secure and viable solution for our compensable injured people who wish to have life-long security.

What did our Federal Government achieve? They removed taxation on Structured Settlements and Structured Orders. This is a great initiative and encourages injured people to look at their long-term security. Indeed, a win for Plaintiff, a win for Defendant and a win for Australian taxpayers who now don't have to support our compensable victims with health and social security benefits.

On 27 November 1993, Jackson my maternal grandson was a three-month-old infant. Jackson and his two older brothers were tragically orphaned. Because of this terrible motor vehicle accident, a happy healthy bouncing boy became quadriplegic and blind. Three tiny boys lost the love and nurture of their parents forever.

A few years after, I started looking beyond the day-to-day care and wondering how people like Jackson, who would receive compensation, could manage their affairs for the rest of their life. After all, I am now fifty-eight and Jackson is only nine. The big issue really is - what happens when I am no longer here? That's the enormous concern facing so many people who manage the affairs of those who are differently abled.

So I looked at the alternatives that are available both in NSW and other States and, quite frankly, was far from impressed. In fact, I began to see how big this whole issue is, particularly when I started becoming aware of what was happening all around us. You only need to look at the case of Jon Blake and his Mum's terrible plight with the Protective Office to see the difficulties confronting people in this situation. Regularly the media relates sad stories of mismanaged, lost or stolen compensation, injured people and their families subsequently being stripped of their dignity. It's a major issue, so scary for so many.

Our situation has been similarly caught up in this type of challenge, a challenge which produced continuing aggravation and unnecessary hardship. Let me explain. In September 1997, The Office of the Protective Commissioner NSW was appointed as Jackson's Financial Manager. I had visited the Protective Commissioner and was told that they would manage Jackson's parents' estate in conjunction with me. But I was completely duped. There was never meaningful consultation and this never happened.

Considering our predicament, I gave time to research solutions. Something had to change. And my great discovery was that Structured Settlements and Structured Orders are available in the UK, Canada and USA. So the journey to make the changes began...

There were many visits and consultations with the Structured Settlement Group and meetings with my friend Danna Vale MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Rod Kemp, then Assistant Treasurer. There were informal discussions with Peter Costello, Treasurer. I also met with the Prime Minister's Department and worked closely with the Assistant Treasurer's Office over the years. The current medical and public liability crisis has helped the passage of Structured Settlements and Structured Orders.

You may like to look at our evolving community website where we share our story of Jackson's rehabilitation and legal journey in the hope that it will assist others. The legal feature illustrates our law reform advocacy for Structured Settlements and Structured Orders.

From a Plaintiff's perspective, Structured Settlements and Structured Orders make great sense. The Defendant Insurer knows that the settlement money is focussed on the injured person's needs. The Judge no longer has the terrible task of having to put a 'use-by' date onto the Plaintiff's life.

Judie in Canberra

Judie walking out of the House of Representatives after the completion of the legislation on Structured Settlements and Structured Orders.
It was great news 6 June 2002 when our Assistant Treasurer, Helen Coonan introduced the Structured Settlements and Structured Orders Bill in Parliament. We know that our Government is very focussed on helping those injured and vulnerable in our society. Helen listened with great compassion and understanding when we met in Canberra. Tuesday 10 December 2002, legislation reached its final stage and was passed for the final time through the Federal House of Representatives then Thursday 19 December 2002, Structured Settlements and Structured Orders legislation was given Royal Assent. The Federal legislation is totally complete. It is now vital that each State and Territory amends their Common Law legislation to ensure that Structured Settlements and Structured Orders are available to injured people as soon as possible. In 2003, my professional focus will be to ensure this happens as soon as possible.

David Bowen

David Bowen General Manager of the Motor Accident Authority, NSW Australia and Judie.
Thanks to David Bowen of the Motor Accident Authority in Sydney who has already made provisions for Structured Settlements in NSW. However, Structured Orders have yet to receive the NSW Parliamentary seal and this should happen as soon as the State election is completed.

To summarise, what do Structured Settlements and Structured Orders mean for people like us:

  • They mean that our years of being under scrutiny, of living in a goldfish bowl, have come to an end and we can now get on with the business of living.
  • They mean that Jackson's financial future is now assured, and that his financial wellbeing will no longer depend on the vagaries, abilities, knowledge, motives, lifespan or integrity of anyone. This year, Jackson will receive a Structured Settlement or Structured Order when his compensation court case is heard.
  • They mean certainty and security, elements that will allow us to concentrate solely on improving Jackson's potential for recovery and continually improving his quality of life, education, rehabilitation and medical needs.
  • They mean transparency. We now know what we are dealing with, we will be able to budget for all Jackson's future needs and indeed move forward.
  • And all of that adds up to focus, hope, and the ability to celebrate life and what it has to offer.

It is people like Jackson who give us inspiration to move boundaries to dare to make a difference. So now I am asking you to consider: Do you know someone who will benefit from a Structured Settlement or Structured Order? We certainly do!

Structured Settlements and Structured Orders now available in Australia.

On Wednesday 26 September 2001, the assistant Treasurer, Senator Rod Kemp announced that the Government will introduce legislative amendments designed to encourage the use of Structured Settlements and Structured Orders for personal injury compensation.

Prime Minister of Australia, the Honorable John Howard is introduced to Jackson and Judie by their friend Danna Vale MP. Prime Minister thanked Judie for her work in promoting Structured Settlements.

Sunday 7 October, 2001.

This amendment will assist compensible injured people who are reliant on their compensation for the rest of their lives. Consistent with this aim, tax free indexed pension will be available by choice to provide funds for care, rehabilitation and medical needs for the plaintiff's life.

This is bipartisan and will assist the most injured and vulnerable in our society. Thankyou to our treasurers, Prime Minister, Danna Vale MP, and all those who listened.

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