A MAN seriously injured as a baby 23 years ago when the family car crashed as they headed home to Albury has won the right to be compensated for medical expenses.
Matthew O’Connor was just eight months old when the car rolled on the Hume Highway near Euroa on April 29, 1990.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal said this week it was “more probable than not” that Mr O’Connor’s problems were caused by a brain injury suffered in the crash.
This sets aside the Transport Accident Commission’s previous decision to deny funding for any treatment.
Slater and Gordon motor vehicle accident lawyer Allan Macrae said the VCAT decision was welcomed by Mr O’Connor’s parents, Shane and Helen O’Connor, who left Albury many years ago.
“The VCAT result vindicates Matthew and his parents, who fought and proved that his behavioural problems arose from brain injury caused by the terrible transport accident when Matthew was only eight months old,” Mr Macrae said.
“The accident also severely injured Matthew’s older brother (Bradley).
“The result means that Matthew and his parents will have access to funding from the TAC for medical treatment for behavioural issues and for vocational training to help him find suitable work.”
After the crash the family moved in with Mrs O’Connor’s parents in Melbourne.
“The deficits which Mr O’Connor now exhibits are, according to the evidence before me, of the type which could be produced by such an injury at so tender an age,” VCAT vice-president Judge Michael Macnamara said.
The crash happened as the O’Connors and their children — Nicole, 4, Bradley, 3, and Matthew — returned to Albury from Melbourne.
They were about 20 kilometres south of Euroa when Shane O’Connor lost control of the car, probably because he had momentarily fallen asleep at the wheel.
Initial tests at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne revealed Matthew O’Connor had not suffered any “obvious injuries”.
But it wasn’t long before the O’Connors had more than enough reason to be concerned for Matthew.
“Once Matthew started to reach milestones which he wasn’t really reaching properly such as walking and talking, I started to think something was wrong,” Mrs O’Connor said.
That pattern continued to the point where he left school halfway through year 11.
His education was marked by under-achievement — especially in language skills, though not mathematics — and truancy.
A clinical neurologist, Dr Peter Dowling, said this was likely caused by an acquired brain injury to his frontal lobes.