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Case study: Devil in the details for factory worker

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In July 2019, a union member contacted us with a rejected Workcover Queensland decision in relation to industrial deafness. This member had a strong work ethic and had been working in numerous factories for approximately 26 years. Due to this, he had been experiencing difficulties with his hearing. Therefore, this member consulted his doctor and it was confirmed that he had suffered a significant decrease in hearing due to his exposure to numerous factories in his work-life.

However, WorkCover denied our client’s application for compensation for industrial deafness on the basis that he did not meet the definition of ‘temporarily unemployed’ as he had been unemployed for more than six months.

We reviewed this decision in September 2019. After having lengthy conversations with this client, it was revealed that our client was battling cancer. The lengthy series of radiation treatments meant that our client was forced to take a period of time off work which lasted longer than six months.

Upon review to the Worker’s Compensation Regulator, we argued that the six-month time period was a timeframe created by WorkCover with no legal foundation. It was merely a guideline. We further argued that WorkCover failed to take into account the member’s current health condition and highlighted the fact that our client was not physically able to seek work during radiation treatment. In conclusion, numerous Queensland cases were referenced in support, and we argued our client would ordinarily be considered a worker under the Act but for his unfortunate need to seek medical treatment for his cancer.

The application was successful on review and the union member received the medical treatment for the industrial deafness he was suffering. This member was then also able to purchase the appropriate hearing aids he required, which he could not afford prior to his application for compensation being accepted.

Case study: Regulator review for union member proves fruitful

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In October 2019, Sciacca’s Lawyers was contacted by a Union member who was suffering significant psychological distress in the workplace. This member was subject to ongoing bullying by his superiors over a number of years. However, a lot of the bullying was occurring ‘behind closed doors’ and was witnessed by very few people. This member was forced to take sick leave and a medical certificate stated that he could not return to work for a long period of time. This member proceeded to make an application to Workcover Queensland for a psychological injury, which was subsequently rejected as none of the bullying events could be substantiated, and that the actions by his superiors were found to be ‘reasonable management action’.

We reviewed this decision to the Worker’s Compensation Regulator in December 2019. During this process, we gathered numerous witness statements and sought further medical opinion in order to evidence that the nominated events had in fact taken place as described by our client. We further submitted that there was a clear breach of several workplace policies and that management had acted unreasonably.

The application for review was successful and the original decision of WorkCover Queensland was overturned. The union member was then able to access the psychological assistance they needed as well as receive weekly compensation for lost wages.

Case study: AAI Limited v Caffrey

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We have led many landmark cases in QLD that have changed  legal precedent. We had the privilege to represent Senior Constable David Caffrey who was referred to Sciaccas Lawyers  by the Queensland Police Union. 

David suffered a significant psychiatric injury after attending a fatal road crash.

David was the first responder to a single vehicle accident where the driver, who was speeding and affected by intoxicants, had crashed into a tree. The driver was critically injured and David provided first aid and comfort. David also attempted to reassure the driver’s parents, who happened to arrive at the scene. Once paramedics arrived and cut the driver from the wreck, they advised David the man was going to die. David explained this to the driver’s parents and invited them to say goodbye to their son. 

David remained at the scene throughout the man’s passing and completed his work. The accident had a significant affect on David’s mental health. He suffered from post-traumatic stress  and was medically retired. Sciaccas brought a claim against the CTP insurer of the at fault vehicle.

Issues 

Mr Caffrey sued insurer AAI for damages alleging that, as a result of the driver’s negligent driving, he had suffered these devastating psychiatric injuries. It was clear the driver had been negligent as he had been driving at an excessive speed while intoxicated by methamphetamine, amphetamine and marijuana, so that was not the dispute. The main issue at the trial and in the appeal was whether the driver owed Mr Caffrey a duty of care to avoid causing him the harm that he had suffered by attending the scene of the crash as part of his duties as a Queensland police officer. 

Findings 

The court ultimately determined that the driver owed Mr Caffrey a duty of care and he was awarded $1,092,948.

If you’ve been injured, contact Sciaccas Lawyers, so that we can advise you on your rights and prospects of successfully pursuing a claim. We always recommend that you contact us as soon as possible so that we can ensure your interests are protected and you do not miss any time limits.  Feel free to contact us today on 1800 658 525.

Ian Leavers Awarded the Con Sciacca Memorial Award

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Ian Leavers, General President and CEO of the Queensland Police Union of Employees, has been awarded the first inaugural Con Sciacca Memorial Award.

This Award recognises and honours the memory of Con Sciacca AO by honouring a member of an Australian union who has shown a willingness and dedication to advancing the rights of Australian workers.

Con Sciacca was a Federal Minister of the Crown and a solicitor of the Supreme and High Courts of Australia. He was also a Labor politician and an advocate for Australian unions and their members. He died in 2017 at the age of 70, following a long fight with cancer.

Mr Leavers enjoyed a long and dedicated career as a police officer. Since 2009 he has been the voice of the QPUE, representing over 11,000 police officers across the State. He has consistently stood up for both the safety of police officers and the public.

The award comes with a $3000 prize. Mr Leavers, however, has declined to personally accept the money and instead chosen to donate $1000 each to three police families. The first is the Poustie family who tragically lost husband and father Brendan in 2017.

To find out more about the Con Sciacca Memorial Award visit https://www.sciaccas.com.au/con-sciacca-award.

Advice for QPUE Members

By | Workplace Accidents | No Comments

Sciaccas Lawyers have been offering legal services to members of the Queensland Police Union of Employees (QPUE) for approximately 10 years. The focus of the advices that we have provided relate to the Workcover processes and common law claims for damages arising out of injuries suffered in the course of employment and/or as a result of motor vehicle accidents.

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Issues relevant to Police Officers

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As members will be aware, Sciaccas Lawyers have provided advice to QPUE members over the previous years on a range of issues dealing with claims for compensation arising out of motor vehicle accidents, workers’ compensation reviews and common law claims. The scope of these claims have included both physical and psychological injuries.

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What is a redundancy?

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A redundancy is a genuine redundancy when the person’s job doesn’t need to be performed by anybody anymore.
A redundancy usually occurs because of a change in the businesses operations or strategy. Your employer should consult with you before the redundancy occurs and try to accommodate you in other areas of the business.

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Motor Vehicle Accidents & CTP Claims

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We have recently advised an increasing number of police officers who have sustained personal injuries arising from their involvement in motor vehicle accidents. A number of those have resulted from officers being struck by motor vehicles in the course of avoiding random breath testing.

Officers will be aware that if they suffer injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident in the course of their employment they are entitled to lodge a claim with Workcover Queensland for statutory benefits pursuant to the provisions of the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. What officers may not be aware of is that they are also entitled to lodge a claim against the compulsory third party (CTP) insurer of the at fault vehicle.

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Will I lose my job because I’m ill?

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You are protected at work from being treated adversely because you have an illness if your employer is aware of your illness.

This means that if you are suffering from an illness or injury your employer has an obligation (under anti-discrimination legislation) to consider making reasonable adjustments (within the capability of the business) to enable you to perform your role.

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Do I have to give my employer a medical certificate?

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If you have taken paid personal leave (sick leave) and your employer requests that you provide a medical certificate, then you will need to comply.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), section 97 allows you to take paid personal/carer’s leave when you are not fit for work because of a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the employee; or when you need to provide care or support to a member of your immediate family or household, who requires care or support because of a personal illness, or personal injury, affecting the member; or an unexpected emergency affecting the member.

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Am I still entitled to compensation if I was partly to blame for the car accident?

By | Motor Accidents | No Comments

When dealing with compensation for motor vehicle accidents in Queensland, there are two aspects that you must prove to successfully bring a claim.

The First aspect is with respect to liability or negligence and the second is with respect to the injuries sustained by the negligence and the damages or compensation that flows from that.

If you are unable to prove negligence / liability then you do not recover any damages / compensation for your injury. This means that if the motor vehicle accident was your own fault, you cannot pursue a negligence claim as the accident was your own fault.

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Is there such thing as a stress claim?

By | Workplace Accidents | No Comments

In the current economic client, many workers’ are finding themselves under increasing pressure from their employers to meet heavier and heavier workloads, whilst at the same time having less resources and support available to do so. It is therefore hardly surprising that workers’ compensation claims involving workplace stress are on the rise. In fact, recent figures published by Safe Work Australia suggest that 95% of workers’ compensation claims for psychiatric injuries, in Australia, involve elements of work related stress.[1] This raises the question of in what particular circumstances a worker’s compensation claim based on workplace stress will be accepted?

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What happens in a hit & run

By | Motor Accidents | No Comments

It is an unfortunate reality, but altogether not uncommon, that motor accidents occur in circumstances where the offending vehicle fails to remain on the scene.

If you have been in an accident where you are unable to identify the vehicle responsible, you are still able to bring a claim for any personal injury that you have suffered. In these circumstances there is a State Government insurance fund which is managed by the Government Department known as the “Nominal Defendant” that acts as a compulsory third party insurer of unregistered and/or unidentified vehicles.

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Medical Retirement – What Next?

By | Workplace Accidents | No Comments

In recent years we have seen a significant increase in the number of Police Officers medically retired by the Queensland Police Service (QPS). The majority of those medical retirements have been initiated by the QPS in circumstances where the officer is suffering from symptoms which preclude them returning to first response policing.

Whereas previously officers who were not capable of returning to first response were accommodated within the QPS in alternate roles in recruitment, communications etc these opportunities no longer seem to be available.

Officers should be aware that if they are medically retired they have an entitlement to access Total and Permanent Disablement (TPD) benefits pursuant to their QSuper policy.

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