‘Terrified’: Woman in wheelchair fell from the back of taxi


A CAIRNS woman confined to a wheelchair suffered a serious head injury when she says a taxi driver told her to reverse her motorised wheelchair out of the cab without the ramp in position, resulting in her falling 1.5 metres and hitting her head.

The family of Sylvia Miller say they are now considering legal action against the Cairns-based taxi company over the incident they claim has left her with a dislocated shoulder, serious cognitive issues and personality changes.

Her partner Robbie Jellie said in June, Sylvia had gone to a Cairns shopping centre with her carer in a disability taxi when the incident occurred, causing her to fall backwards from the taxi in her 133kg motorised wheelchair.

"She hit her head, dislocated her shoulder and was terrified," Mr Jellie said.

"When someone who has very limited communication skills when she's being confronted with little ability to respond it's a terrifying situation for her.

"It's a huge exercise in trust. Because she can't look left or right or behind her she doesn't have that mobility."

Cairns woman Sylvia Miller, pictured with her carer Tracey McHugh. Picture: Brendan Radke
Cairns woman Sylvia Miller, pictured with her carer Tracey McHugh. Picture: Brendan Radke

Ms Miller, 52, became confined to the wheelchair and lost her mobility and speech when she suffered a series of strokes in September 2017.

Mr Jellie said his partner's personality had changed after suffering the head injury, causing her to become angry and depressed.

"She is a tiny little thing and (was) very sweet and loving," Mr Jellie said.

He said he wanted to let other people know there were alternative transport options for disabled people, something he was not aware of before the accident.

The family is now considering legal action against the cab company

Shine Lawyers Head Trauma Expert Katharine Wood said the law firm was supporting the family following the incident and outlined Sylvia's version of events.

"Sylvia was told by the taxi driver she was free to reverse out, but he had failed to put the ramp in place," Ms Wood said.

"She followed the instruction and has fallen backwards out of the vehicle onto the road from a height of approximately 1.5 metres.

"We were outraged when this was first brought to our attention."

Ms Wood said the firm was currently investigating grounds for legal action against the cab company.

"We are doing everything we can to support Sylvia who has been left in a distressed mental state, has a head injury and is experiencing personality changes since the accident."

"This family has been through so much adjusting to Sylvia's disabilities following her stroke at such a young age. Now they are faced with a whole new set of challenges."

"Early investigations suggest the head injury has changed Sylvia's personality and made her agitated... "This has been truly heartbreaking for her partner to watch given Sylvia's upbeat mental state before the accident."

The taxi company did not respond to a request for comment.


Originally published as 'Terrified': Woman in wheelchair fell from the back of taxi