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Date PostedMay 1, 2012


In a recent case involving Cookshire County and an employee, who was injured while performing a duty on site, the employee was awarded over $400,000.

According to Couriermail.com.au :

A FAR North Queensland council has been ordered to pay an employee more than $400,000 in damages after injuring his back while swinging a sledgehammer on the job.

The Supreme Court in Cairns has ordered Cook Shire Council to pay Darryl John Hosmer, 41, the money after he suffered a lumbar spine injury while “carrying out a task” at work on April 29, 2008.

Justice Jim Henry, in a just published 35-page decision, said despite earlier denials Cook County admitted liability at trial that Mr Hosmer “suffered an injury to his lumbar spine.”

Source:  http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/cook-shire-council-pays-worker-400000-for-back-injury/story-e6freoof-1226325480162

It is interesting to note that although the task was part of the workers regular duties, the Council was found to be in breach of it’s duties. According to Occupation Health and Safety Laws employers have a duty to provide a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of employees. Employers also have a responsibility to instruct, train and supervise employees on work safety in a way that is understandable.  In this case Cook Shire Council was found to not have performed all of its duties.

Couriermail.com.au goes on to state:

“It is common ground (between the council and Mr Hosmer) he was required to perform the task in the course of his employment with the council,” Justice Henry said.

“Mr Hosmer (claims) that the (lumbar spine) injury was caused by the council’s breach in its obligations and duties.”

However, he said there had been some “literal inconsistency” in the council’s claim.

“On the one hand (the council) admits liability for the (sledge hammering) incident … (which)specifically alleges that the injury was suffered in the course of carrying out the task (described),” he said.

“On the other hand, it also denies the incident caused the alleged injury.”

Justice Henry said during a civil trial if became apparent there was no real dispute Mr Hosmer was injured in the “sledgehammering incident”, but there was some dispute over whether Mr Hosmer had a pre-existing back injury.

“The more major dispute at trial centred upon assessing the true extent of the impact of the injury upon Mr Hosmer.”

The court was told Mr Hosmer was assessed or treated by two respected orthopaedic surgeons in October and November 2008, which resulted in a very slight improvement to his condition.

Justice Henry awarded Mr Hosmer damages in the sum of $413,600.43.

The sum accounts for almost $250,000 in future economic loss, almost $30,000 loss of future superannuation and $45,000 in general damages.

Source : http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/cook-shire-council-pays-worker-400000-for-back-injury/story-e6freoof-1226325480162

Notice that the court was concerned with the impact of the injury which occurred while swinging the sledgehammer on the job.  The compensation was awarded due to the perceived huge impact on the health, loss of income and future earnings of the employee.  This is consistent with what the law states about injuries on duty. According to Workinjurycompensation.com.au:

Workers compensation law in Australia depicts that a worker is entitled to compensation for any personal injury or disease or an aggravation of an injury or disease that occurs:

  • During the course of employment;
  • By an incident arising out of employment;
  • Injuries that occur by way of gradual process.
  • On a journey to or from work.

The purpose of workers compensation is to compensate for the following possibilities:

  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Physical and mental injuries
  • Medical, hospital & rehabilitation costs
  • Dependant spouse and/or dependant children

 Source: http://www.workerinjurycompensation.com.au/Workers_Compensation_Law.html

 Companies should be well aware of the dangers of neglecting their obligations and duties as employers. The proper training and safety regulations need to be adhered to and followed if companies want to avoid the hefty fines and payouts like the one incurred by Cook Shire Council.

You may be asking yourself, as an employee what recourse do I have if I have been injured on the job?  Well Workinjurycompensation.com.au  has this to say:

What should I do if I have been injured in the workplace?

If you have been injured at work, then you are entitled to make a claim for compensation. For a workers compensation claim to be established you must be able to prove that you were injured at work or while doing your job.

In making a claim for workers compensation, the injured worker or their representative (i.e. lawyer) must advise the employer that an injury has occurred and provide any relavent information required such as details of the incident and medical information relating to the injury. An injured worker does not, in most cases, need to send a written claim form to the insurer to receive workers compensation. Instead, once the insurer has been told of an injury (by the employer, the worker or a third party), the claim process will begin. It is also important to note that a worker who has received an injury that results in permanent impairment may be entitled to receive lump sum compensation payments in addition to weekly benefits.

In most cases, there is a time limit for making a workers compensation claim. In general, a claim for workers compensation should be made within six months of the date of the injury but ideally it is best to make a claim as soon as possible. It is important to keep in mind that a worker may not be entitled to compensation if notice of the injury has not been given to the employer as soon as possible after the injury or if the worker has voluntarily left the employment in which the worker was at the time of the injury.

Source: http://www.workerinjurycompensation.com.au/Workers_Compensation_Claim.html

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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