Personal injury lawyers, CTP insurance claimants blocked from citizen's jury
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Personal injury lawyers, CTP insurance claimants blocked from citizen's jury

Car crash victims getting a payout through compulsory third party insurance will be blocked from sitting on a citizen's jury that will decide the future of the scheme in the ACT.

Just 76 people have registered for the jury, despite 6000 invitations being mailed out earlier this month.

About 300,000 people pay compulsory third party insurance in Canberra.

About 300,000 people pay compulsory third party insurance in Canberra.

Photo: Melissa Adams

ACT Law Society president Sarah Avery said the jury selection process was "flawed" and the information to be given to jurors "lacked transparency".

The law society, the ACT Bar Association, and the Australian Lawyers Alliance have joined under the banner of ACTCTP.org to fight off changes to the insurance scheme, in a move that echoes the $131,000 multimedia campaign they ran in 2011 before the reforms were dumped in 2012.

Only 76 people registered for the citizen's jury, despite 6000 invites being mailed out.

Only 76 people registered for the citizen's jury, despite 6000 invites being mailed out.

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Ms Avery, who is a spokeswoman for the campaign, said anyone who is in the process of having a CTP claim considered, or lives with someone who is, was excluded from being on the jury.

Personal injury lawyers, CTP insurance company employees, or public servants who deal in personal injury compensation are also not eligible.

"Citizen's juries are supposed to be a holistic representation of society. We don't think that people currently in the CTP system should be automatically excluded," Ms Avery said.

"A fair public jury needs to consist of a mix of people with varying levels of experience with CTP. Only then can you achieve a properly informed jury and win the public's trust in the citizen's jury process."

A government fact sheet said people with a "stake" in the CTP scheme were excluded so they did not "unfairly" influence the jury's deliberations.

A discussion paper showed legal fees accounted for a quarter - $30 million - of total claim payments last financial year.

But Ms Avery said there needed to be greater transparency about how people on the jury were selected and more balance in the information available about CTP on the government's Your Say website.

She said injured people who have used the scheme should have a chance to address the jury, as none are represented in the stakeholder group and are not permitted to be a part of the jury.

Ms Avery said the jurors needed more time to hear from witnesses directly, and the stakeholder group needed more time to develop the models.

"There is currently about six hours of meeting time set aside to complete this task", she said.

The alliance has not set a budget for their campaign. Ms Avery said they would campaign on an "as-needs basis to get our message out".

Chief Minister Andrew Barr last month announced the jury as a "circuit-breaker" to finally reform the ACT's at-fault, common law CTP insurance scheme.

He said it was a good issue for a citizen's jury to chew over as it affected 300,000 Canberrans, who were paying the second-highest premiums in Australia.

However Ms Avery said Mr Barr wanted to bring in a more "restrictive" CTP scheme.

"If the ACT government pushes through its preferred scheme, it will mean more injured people will be forced into the social welfare system, or forced to take out expensive private injury and income protection insurance, rather than, as they do now, getting a level of compensation that would enable them to have flexibility as to how their injuries are treated and to pursue the recovery of the actual loss they have suffered," she said.

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Registrations for the 50-person jury closed on Sunday.

While the company running the jury, DemocracyCo, told Fairfax Media they would need at least 300 registrations to run the jury, an ACT government spokeswoman said they still managed to get a good cross-section of age, gender, different road users and knowledge of CTP insurance in the smaller sample.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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