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Hit-and-run victim blasts compensation failure

Hit and run victim Antonio DaCosta (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A hit-and-run victim who lost everything after he was run over by a drunk driver has demanded changes to the law to protect victims in similar cases.

Antonio DaCosta, 56, said he was in constant pain and unable to pay his bills or get further surgery in the wake of the crash.

But, after a legal battle with insurers and the Motor Insurance Fund, he got only a bare minimum payout.

Mr DaCosta said: “It’s bad. It shouldn’t work like this.

“I have lost everything I had. Mortgages, I couldn’t pay. Bills, I couldn’t pay. I lost everything.

“With my age, I can’t do what I used to do. I get up some mornings and I can’t walk because of the pain.”

Mr DaCosta was riding a motorcycle along South Road in Paget on January 1, 2016, when he was hit and dragged by a car driven by Chris Carter, who fled the scene.

Carter was later arrested and pleaded guilty in Magistrates’ Court to driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Mr DaCosta said: “It was a couple of weeks before they caught him – the licence plate was stuck in my arm. I still have the cut.”

He added he woke up at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital after the crash and remained there until March.

Mr DaCosta said he was released for Easter, but returned to the hospital a month later and several times afterwards for more treatment.

He added: “My ankle was opened up in the back and front, my knee has all sorts of screws and stuff – I have metal from my hip to my ankle.

“I can lift my arm now, but I can’t hold it up. It just drops down. I can’t pick up things on the top of a shelf – I have to do it quick and with support.”

Mr DaCosta said: “Pain is normal. Doctors told me I was going to have pain.”

He added he was told he would need more surgery on his arms, ankle and jaw, but could not afford them.

Mr DaCosta said: “I can’t calculate how much it has cost me so far. I can’t. There are some people who have helped me and paid some of my bills.

“I have spent everything. Everything I have is gone. I have lost everything.”

“Now it’s too late to do anything with the muscles in my arms.”

Mr DaCosta said the collision left him unable to return to his work as a gardener and landscaper, and his efforts to receive compensation was unsuccessful.

He launched a legal action against Carter and BF&M, the insurer of the vehicle, in 2018 and was awarded $733,659.20.

But because Carter was impaired and he had borrowed the car, it triggered an exclusion clause which meant the insurer would cover only $125,000 of the award – the minimum requirement in the legislation for cases of death or injury.

The ruling left the balance of $608,659.20 to be paid by Carter, but Mr DaCosta said he had not received a single payment.

Mr DaCosta also appealed to the Motor Insurer’s Fund – a body created to help people injured by uninsured or unidentified drivers which is funded by a surcharge on motor insurance premiums.

But the Supreme Court ruled in September he was not eligible to benefit from the fund because there was “limited” insurance coverage.

He said: “I know other people who have had the same problem I have had. People pay the lawyers and get nothing because the MIF doesn’t seem to help anybody.

“They should change the law. Why should I be paying into a fund that doesn’t help people when they need it?”

Mr DaCosta complained that his legal battle only added to his expenses and that he had spent thousands of dollars just to provide lawyers with bank drafts and medical records.

Steve Pierce, a friend of Mr DaCosta, said the system appeared to be designed to protect insurers more than victims.

Mr Pierce added: “The normal limit under a car policy is $1.25 million, but the insurers have an exclusion where in if the driver is drunk, then that drops to 10 per cent, $125,000.

“Who does that protect? It does nothing for the victim.”

He said: “It’s ghastly. There’s no question it’s ghastly.”

The MIF did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published December 23, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 22, 2020 at 6:05 pm)

Hit-and-run victim blasts compensation failure

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