Dispute arises over work injury from pre-existing condition

Date: Aug 25, 2018

What would happen if a person was injured on the job, but it turned out they had an underlying health problem that was just aggravated by the work? In these cases, it can be hard to determine whether that person would still be eligible for workers' compensation.

A company has appealed against an injured man, claiming that he had a pre-existing condition and his work duties did not cause permanent impairment. 

Background of the injury

On 25 March 2009, the defendant was working for the plaintiff. As part of his work duties, he was carrying a 25kg bag over his shoulder. He then noticed severe pain in his neck and shooting down his left arm. Swelling incurred and the defendant continued to have pain and discomfort after the incident. 

He later had a spinal fusion, which relieved his arm pain and numbness, but only mitigated some of his neck pain. He had another spinal fusion on 4 April 2014.

After being examined by a medical assessor from the Worker's Compensation Commission, on 28 June 2017, the defendant was stated to have 28 per cent whole person impairment. 

The appeal grounds

The plaintiff, who the defendant worked for when he was injured, filed an appeal claiming that the medical assessment was made in error and was based on incorrect criteria. Namely, that the injured man had a pre-existing medical condition.

The three defendants are the injured man, the registrar of the Workers Compensations Commission and the medical appeal panel.

The plaintiff's claim was made on the grounds that the medical appeal panel did not address opinions from the injured man's doctors that his pain was a 'temporary aggravation' of an underlying condition. The panel allegedly did not explain how they came to a different conclusion than the doctors.

Additionally, the plaintiff had requested an oral hearing about the matter, which the injured man opposed. The company also requested another assessment, which the medical appeal panel did not follow through on.

The judge found that the panel had in fact made an error. The case was remitted to the second defendant, the Registrar of the Workers Compensation Commission, so that an appeal panel could determine the outcome according to law.

If you have been in a work-related accident, you may be eligible to receive workers' compensation. Contact our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information or a free consultation.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.