Tony was 43 years old, homeless with a history of depression and disconnection from family.
He was put in contact with Salvos Legal Humanitarian by a volunteer at a service providing meals to homeless and marginalised people in a large Victorian regional city. This was at a time when he was confused and frustrated. He was entitled to payment of a lump sum of compensation but it was being held back – he could not grasp why.
In 2015, whilst crossing a road Tony was struck from behind by a car. Tony lost consciousness and was air-lifted to hospital. He was diagnosed as suffering a close head injury with bleeding into the brain, and fractures to his ankle and foot. It also became apparent over time that his memory was adversely affected.
Tony had suffered depression dating back a number of years following the death of a child, the disintegration of his marriage and a dispute over care and contact with his other child. The accident resulted in exacerbation of a pre-existing depressive syndrome.
It was found he was not at fault in relation to the accident, which only confused and frustrated him when the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) declined to make the payment to him. It was not a King’s ransom, but it would have been enough for Tony to pay a Bond on a modest rental property and purchase a car. In a regional city, having a car opens up mobility which creates many more employment possibilities and opportunities to engage in meaningful activities.
It was because of his mental health history the TAC had formed a view that he may “not necessarily have capacity to appropriately manage compensation funds from the TAC.” For Tony this seemed insurmountable as he could not see how to overcome this road block.
TAC were not acting maliciously, but Tony needed a trusted legal advisor to explain their decision making, but more importantly to advocate with TAC on his behalf to find a way past the road block. Salvos Legal suggested TAC commission ARBIAS, a specialist Not For Profit service which assists people with an Acquired Brain Injury, such as Tony, to achieve their goals and make a positive difference to their lives. Salvos Legal was familiar with ARBIAS, having assisted some of their clients in the past. One of their areas of expertise is the provision of specialised neuropsychological assessments.
TAC agreed to fund an assessment which concluded that he did have the capacity to manage the compensation, and TAC made the payment. Tony was delighted and effusive in his thanks to Salvos Legal Humanitarian. When we last spoke to him, he had purchased a car and was looking at accommodation. At our suggestion, he also met with a financial counseling service who worked with him to set up a budget to keep him on a stable course.
Tony’s experience illustrates the importance of having access to a valued and trusted legal advisor who was able to explain the decision, his rights, and devise a pathway forward.