Recent Court decision underlines importance of an accurate claim form

Recent Court decision underlines importance of an accurate claim form

A recent Magistrates' Court decision underlines the importance of ensuring that the manner in which an injury occurs is accurately recorded in the Worker's Injury Claim Form. In Robinson v SPI Electricity Pty Ltd, Magistrate Garnett found that he could only adjudicate on the mechanism of injury that was recorded in the worker's claim form. The facts of the case Robinson was a Field Services Representative and his job required him to check the gas meters of clients throughout regional Victoria. The job, which Robinson had been doing for ten years, was physically demanding, with prolonged sitting, repetitive bending and a frequently requirement for him to force gates and scale fences. He told doctors and his family that he had experienced stiffness and soreness in his lower back for a number of years, which he attributed to his work duties. On 1 February 2011, Robinson performed his job as normal. Though there was no specific incident on that day, he experienced particularly intense soreness in his low back and could not complete his shift. Robinson subsequently lodged a Worker's Injury Claim Form which stated that he had sustained an injury on 1 February 2011. The claim was rejected because the employer formed a view that Robinson had injured himself not at work but while playing with his children at home. The matter went to Conciliation and a Certificate of Genuine Dispute was issued. Robinson then launched court proceedings. The pleadings Consistent with Robinson's instructions that he had experienced back pain throughout the course of employment due to the general physically demanding nature of the work, the worker's Statement of Claim in the Magistrates' Court, filed in February 2012, referred to a lower back injury sustained in the course of his employment. WorkSafe's Defence of April 2012 did not take issue with the worker's'course of employment' pleading. However, at the hearing in September 2012, Counsel for WorkSafe argued that it was not open to the Magistrate to find that the worker's injury had been sustained over the course of his employment. Rather, if it was indeed a work injury, WorkSafe argued that the Court could only find that the injury had occurred on 1 February 2011 - because that was how the worker had recorded the injury in his claim form, and the insurer for WorkSafe had precessed the claim on that basis. Essentially, WorkSafe's argument was that only the 1 February 2011 mechanism - and not the'course of employment' mechanism - had gone through the necessary stages as set out in the WorkCover legislation: the worker lodges a claim form; the claim is rejected; the worker requests Conciliation; a Certificate of Genuine Dispute is issued by the Conciliator; and finally, the worker launches court proceedings. The Court's finding Magistrate Garnett accepted WorkSafe's argument, finding that it was not open to him to adjudicate the claim on the basis of an injury of the course of Robinson employment, but only on the basis of an injury occurring at work on 1 February 2011. Ultimately, Magistrate Garnett found that Robinson had sustained an injury at work on 1 February 2011. Compensation was payable on that basis. The significance of Robinson for injured workers Robinson's claim for compensation at Court was weakened by the exclusion of the'course of employment' mechanism. Fortunately for him, he succeeded on the narrower 'single date' mechanism. However, the Court could easily have found that Robinson had not sustained an injury on 1 February 2011 specifically, or that if he had, the significance of the injury sustained on that particular day had since ceased, with any ongoing injury attributable to a pre-existing condition (i.e. injury over the course of his employment). In either of these scenarios, Robinson would have been entitled to significantly reduced compensation or none at all. To ensure that your claim is put on the strongest possible basis, it is vital that your Worker's Injury Claim form accurately reflects the way in which your work injury was sustained. Unhelpfully, the claim form does not contain a'course of employment' box for you to tick. Rather, it asks:'What was the date and time the injury occurred?' If your injury developed over a period of time, rather than in one particular incident, do not enter a time and date in that section of the claim form. Instead, write:'over the course of my employment'. Providing a claim form which accurately sets out how and when you were injured will save you a lot of time and trouble down the track. If you are confused about how to fill out a Worker's Injury Claim Form, you should contact Redlich's Work Injury Lawyers on (03) 9321 9988.

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