National

Injured public servant equipped with Segway must pay for his own insurance

Segway riders in Canberra: The ACT government is considering allowing people to ride their own Segways.
Segway riders in Canberra: The ACT government is considering allowing people to ride their own Segways. Photo: Graham Tidy

A public servant who was given a government-funded Segway to drive around his office because of work-related injuries demanded that taxpayers pay for insurance for the vehicle.

But the Queensland-based federal bureaucrat, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been told he must pay for his own insurance, although the workers' compo scheme will shell out for his crash helmet.

The man suffers an underlying health condition that was aggravated by his job. In an effort to get him back to work, workplace insurer Comcare gave him the two-wheeled electric vehicle to get around his office.

The workers' compensation authority also paid for a crash helmet, repairs to the vehicle and spare parts, and the arrangement was judged to be a success by the man, his employer and the insurer.

But when the public servant asked for an extra $346 to insure himself and his Segway, Comcare drew the line and knocked back his claim, saying its legislation would only pay for medical and mobility aids and their parts and maintenance.

The unnamed man appealed against the decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Brisbane, which sympathised with his plight.

While Segways are usually used for recreational purposes, the tribunal noted "they can be of particular value to individuals who have experienced a workplace injury that restricts their mobility".

"The Segway may offer such a user a means of moving about that is more flexible than a scooter or a motorised wheelchair," tribunal senior member Bernard McCabe wrote.

Mr McCabe also found the public servant was sensible to worry "in these litigious times" about the damage or injury his Segway might cause in accident.

"The applicant is probably right to worry about the risks associated with operating a device like the Segway," Mr McCabe found.

"Not because there is anything wrong with, or inherently dangerous about, Segways: rather, it is because our society has become increasingly risk-averse.

"Members of society are more likely to demand protection from even minor risks through recourse to insurance, if not the courts."

But in the end, the tribunal upheld Comcare's position that it did not have to pay for the insurance.

Mr McCabe found the relevant legislation, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, was written long before Segways were invented and contained no provision to pay for insuring the vehicles.

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