LNP Workers’ Compensation Changes: A Case Study

In 2013, Gouldson Legal had the opportunity to act on behalf of a gentleman who sustained a lumbar spine injury in the course of his employment as a brickies labourer in January of that year. Prior to his workplace accident, our client had worked in the construction industry in a range of heavy manual roles for his entire 30 plus year working life.

Despite our client`s stoic attitude and repeated attempts to return work, he was forced, following his workplace accident, to cease his employment. He was unable due to his injuries perform the inherent heavy physical requirements of his role (including extensive heavy lifting, bending and twisting based activities). Given that our client had only ever worked in the construction industry in heavy manual roles with no other transferable skills, he found himself virtually unemployable at the time, and was forced to go onto government benefits to survive week to week.

Regardless of the debilitating nature of our client`s injuries, and his inability to return to the only career he had ever known; his injuries were assessed by WorkCover as amounting to only a 2% work related impairment (WRI) for which he was offered statutory lump sum compensation of $5,700.00. However, given that our client`s injuries were sustained as a result of the negligent actions of his employer, our client was entitled to elect to pursue a common law damages claim against his employer.. The Gouldson team was subsequently able to achieve through the common law claim process a six figure out of court settlement for our client.

The money from this settlement provided our client and his family with financial security, and the ability to get back on track after being abruptly forced out of the workforce on a long term basis due to his workplace injury.

In addition, our client could also afford to undertake retraining in a new area of interest, which was suitable to his injury related occupational restrictions. Recently, he took great pleasure in informing the Gouldson team that he had returned to gainful employment and has finally purchased the engagement ring he had been promising his partner for some time.

However, the outcome for our client would have been very different if his workplace accident had occurred 9 months later than when it did. Under the changes made to the Workers Compensation & Rehabilitation Act 2003 (The Act) by the LNP, which came into effect on 15 October 2013, our client would have been precluded from pursuing a common law claim against his employer. As the changes to the Act restrict the entitlement to pursue a common law damages claim against an employer to those injured parties whose injuries are assessed above the newly introduced threshold of 5% degree of permanent impairment (DPI).

In such circumstances, our client despite being rendered unable to return to the workforce in the only field he had worked, would have had no option available to him other than to accept the statutory lump sum offer made to him by WorkCover of $5,700.00. Our client would have been unable to afford to retrain in alternative employment and believes he would still be simply surviving week to week reliant on government benefits.

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