Success in fight for injured workers’ rights
Within weeks of this column highlighting the unfair difficulty faced by injured workers whose condition worsens after they have received a lump sum compensation payment, the state government has acted.
Four weeks ago lawyer Erin Woodward, workplace injury compensation specialist at Stacks Law Firm, said in the Legal Light that the government’s legislation was working against supporting workers injured in the workplace.
Her comment came after a decision in the NSW Court of Appeal that could prevent thousands of seriously injured workers obtaining a second lump sum compensation payment if their condition worsened over time.
The judges ruled in the landmark Cram Fluid Power v Green case that under the 2012 amendments there could be only one claim for each injured worker even if their condition substantially worsened over time after the initial lump sum compensation payment.
This could happen in particular with spinal injuries that can worsen over time, even after an operation.
Ms Woodward called on the government to amend the Workers Compensation Act so that if an injured worker’s condition worsened they should be assisted and compensated to adjust to this new level of disability caused by the original work injury.
On October 26 the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello, announced legislative changes that will enable injured workers who made a claim for lump sum compensation prior to 19 June 2012 to make one further claim if their condition significantly deteriorates.
“The Government has acted to clarify the law, providing certainty for injured workers whose claims are affected by the Cram Fluid decision,” Mr Dominello said.
The new regulation, which commences in November, will address a potential disadvantage for injured workers who made a claim prior to 19 June 2012, on advice that they could make a further claim if their condition deteriorated.
“Injured workers within this cohort will be able to make one further claim. There is no time limitation for making the claim or restriction on minimum increase in a claimant’s level of permanent impairment,” Mr Dominello announced.
Ms Woodward said this was good news for injured workers, and anybody in this situation should seek legal advice from lawyers specialising in workers compensation.
“The government has recognised the terrible impact the 2012 amendments to the Act had on injured workers whose condition deteriorated after their initial compensation payment,” she said.
“These people need ongoing and often increasing levels of assistance and it was not fair to cut them off and ignore their worsening disability.”