Man awarded $647,766 after suffering back injury at work

Date: Jul 28, 2015

The New South Wales District Court has awarded a man $647,766 after he suffered a serious back injury while employed at his brother’s company.

Working as a telecommunications technician, the plaintiff was tasked with pulling telephone cables through a telecoms pit without mechanical or human assistance.

The accident occurred in 2004 when it emerged one of the cables was buried in clay. On previous occasions when the lines became stuck, the man simply pulled harder in an attempt to free them.

However, while doing so in this instance, he experienced a sharp pain in his back that required him to call his brother to take him to hospital. Doctors diagnosed the plaintiff as having an injury to his L5/S1 disc and related musculo-ligamentous damage.

The man continues to have problems with his back, despite undergoing disc replacement surgery. He now has problems sitting for long periods, his legs sometimes buckle and the pain is ongoing and keeps him awake at night.

According to court documents, the plaintiff was unable to perform his former work duties and was later moved to a paperwork position. Unsuited to this role, his employment was later terminated.

Injury compensation claim

The man is currently employed as a sales assistant at an automotive supplies shop, but pursued a negligence claim against his brother’s company for his ongoing disability.

The plaintiff’s legal team revealed the man had no official training for his position and was left to his own devices in terms of finding the best way to complete day-to-day tasks. In fact, he had learned to do the role largely from watching his brother.

Furthermore, aside from a spade and some cable connecting tools, the company failed to provide the man with equipment or machinery to make the task of pulling cables easier and safer.

The plaintiff was also required to work at speed and was concerned that time wasted would result in his brother losing money on jobs. While two men were sometimes allocated to do cable-pulling tasks, this was not the case on this occasion.

Given these factors, the judge decided the defendant had been negligent and ruled in favour of the plaintiff. He was awarded $375,000 for future economic losses, $164,325 for past economic losses and over $84,000 in superannuation benefits.

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