Traumatised truckies fight for compensation after pedestrian tragedies

Geelong truckie Kevin Reggardo used to be the life and soul of most parties.

He loved his V8 Supercars, NRL, and his dream job driving for a local civil construction company.

He was your “typical, macho, Aussie truck driving man,” said wife of 35 years, Sue Bickerton.

Then everything changed in a horrifying moment one night in 2018 in Geelong when a pedestrian deliberately walked into the path of his truck.

Now 64, Reggardo has not returned to a truck cab since that fateful day and doubts he ever will be due to the post-traumatic stress disorder he now suffers.

“My life has been absolute shit, I’m just a mess really and have trouble talking about it,” said Reggardo, who had been driving trucks on and off since he was 15.

Bickerton picks up the conversation, as she so often does.

“The man who walked out of the house that morning is not the man who came home,” said Bickerton of the Reggardo she lives with today.

“We’ve had to live a totally different relationship; I’ve had to live with a totally different person.

“I’ve had to get used to a new person that looks like my partner and sounds like my partner, but is not my partner.

“He has outbursts, he suffers anxiety, he can’t express himself, he’s too scared to make decisions. It’s a whole variety of things.”

Kevin Reggardo and wife Sue Bickerton.

Reggardo and Bickerton have only decided to share their heartbreaking story now in the hope that it will help others affected by similar tragedies.

They’ve joined forces with another Victorian truckie Ian Medley, who also had his life turned upside down by a pedestrian fatality while he was driving, in a bid to close what their lawyer Tom Burgoyne, principal at Fortitude Legal in Geelong, says is a loophole.

Medley and Reggardo have accessed limited WorkCover compensation under the Victorian WorkCover no-fault scheme, but are unable to seek damages for the pain and suffering they have experienced.

Under the current legislation there is no legal avenue for them when a pedestrian is involved.

Burgoyne said the law could be changed to allow the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) to act as the nominal defendant for damage and pay the claim in the absence of an insurer to claim against.

This is currently the case when an unregistered motorist with no insurer to claim against deliberately drives into a truck.

Reggardo, Bickerton and Medley all say they wouldn’t want others to go through the added financial stresses they’re now under as a result.

Bickerton has had to come out of retirement and take on several part-time jobs to make ends meet around caring for Reggardo.

“The lifestyle I had become accustomed to was no longer there,” she explained.

“It’s not as if we had steak every night and dine all the time. But it was just, you know, being able to afford the little things in life that we enjoy. I didn’t want to be living on nothing for the rest of our life.”

Medley and wife Darlene have also had to make financial sacrifices as a result of the 2014 incident in which a pedestrian deliberately stood in the middle of the road during his usual nightly run carting general freight from Melbourne to Ballarat.

The biggest one being the sale of their dream house in Ballarat to move to cheaper property in Portland.

“You could see the money just wasn’t going to be there and the wife had to give up her job to be at home to look after me,” said Medley, now 56.

Truckie Ian Medley.

“Because I was on permanent nightshift they’d cut my shift allowance off and all other entitlements off and then they get to your base wage, then they cut that down to 80 per cent of that as well, so I’ve just lost so much.

“Portland is a lot slower town, so it was better for my mental health. I couldn’t go out. I still can’t. It just freaks me out.

“My wife said to say that she’d she lost her husband that night [of the incident]. Nothing was ever the same again. You don’t enjoy anything anymore.

“I couldn’t even have my grandkids come over for a while. They’d run around, and that just sets me right off.”

Medley still struggles to get a good night’s sleep.

“I only get to sleep 3-4 hours a night and then have restless nightmares and dreams, and wake up in sweats.”

Like Reggardo and Bickerton, Medley is taking comfort from knowing he now has the chance to help others by sharing his story.

“This loophole has to be closed. You think you should be covered by insurance. You pay a lot of money for registration for trucks, yet something like that happens through no fault of your own and you’ve just got to suffer with it.”

Burgoyne said public support has been “massive” in his campaign for change, and is also buoyed by the recent endorsement of the Victorian Transport Association.

He’s still waiting for feedback from the office of state road safety minister Ben Carroll. Big Rigs has also asked for comment.

“I think most Australians would expect that when you’re using the road, and particularly if you’re using the road in the course of your employment, that when something goes wrong, and you’re blameless, we expect that you would be able to recover damages, as you would in any other situation for your pain and suffering, and future loss of earnings,” said Burgoyne.

“Some of these people never return to work, and you just don’t hear from them, and that’s why it’s so important that my clients, Kevin Reggardo and Ian Medley, have said, ‘This isn’t about us, we’re just trying to help others’, and they put their hands up.”

  • If you or someone you know needs support, you can speak to an OzHelp support officer on 1300 694 357 (9am – 5pm, Mon- Fri), access 24/7 support by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend