The Queensland Government has recently made changes to the Workers’ Compensation legislation. In relation to work related injuries suffered on or after 15 October 2013, workers can no longer sue for common law damages if their degree of permanent impairment is assessed at 5% or less. This is regardless of the seriousness of the impact of that injury upon the worker and his or her future outlook. By way of example, a worker may lose the tip of his index finger as a result of his employer’s negligence and be assessed as suffering from a 4% permanent impairment. Some may perceive this to be a minor injury, but for a concert pianist, it can have a devastating impact on his ability to earn income. That concert pianist would now be prevented from suing for damages which would otherwise have included a claim for future economic loss. Notably, medical practitioners engaged by WorkCover will decide if a claimant meets the threshold degree of permanent impairment or not.
To put this in further context, the Queensland Law Society has stated that the changes mean that more than 50% of people who are injured at work can no longer sue their employer for negligence.
Further significant changes now allow a prospective employer to request from a job applicant, details of pre-existing injuries or medical conditions that may be aggravated by performing employment duties. If a job seeker knowingly gives false or misleading information, he is not entitled to seek damages for any “event” that aggravates the pre-existing injury or medical condition. Arguably, new injuries resulting from that “event” will also be precluded from being the subject of a damages claim.
Employers can also now request a job seeker’s worker’s compensation claims history from the relevant government department.
For more information on how these changes may impact upon your claim for common law damages as a result of the employer’s negligence, please do not hesitate to contact us.