Man wins nearly $2.3 million in TPD claims case

Date: Mar 23, 2015

A man who was left with a total and permanent disability due to an injury sustained in the workplace has been awarded nearly $2.3 million at NSW Supreme Court.

He had been employed as a dogman, a worker who gives instructions to crane operators – often while riding on the object being lifted – on construction sites. On the day of the accident, the man was working for a subcontractor that was tasked with the job of dismantling and moving a sinter cooler for a steelworks firm.

Sinter is a substance that lines the refractory surface of a blast furnace, preventing any unnecessary damage during iron manufacturing processes. Limestone, iron ore and coke is mixed to create the material, which is then cooled on the sinter cooler.

According to court documents, relocating the sinter cooler to a new spot was considered a “massive operation”. Unfortunately, while employees were rigging the frame, one of the support beams fell and crushed the plaintiff’s legs underneath.

He suffered extreme crush injuries to his right leg, which had to be amputated below the knee. As a result, the man now suffers recurring infections in the stump, phantom pains and arthritis and dysfunction in his knee.

Judge decides on compensation

Both the contractor and the steelworks firm admitted breach of duty of care during the case, meaning the judge only had to decide on damages.

Due to the severity of the injury, many factors were taken into consideration. At age 45, the man had a life expectancy of approximately 34 years, and it was clear he had suffered serious physical and psychological problems because of the accident.

This included the frustration of not being able to return to his job, the fact his arthritis will probably worsen as he gets older and the loss of leisure activities.

The judge therefore awarded him $377,500 for non-economic losses, which includes pain and suffering. He also made provisions for over $200,000 in past out-of-pocket expenses.
Other costs included:

  • Past economic loss ($316,727)
  • Future economic loss ($487,591)
  • Past and future superannuation ($98,000)
  • Ongoing medical needs ($70,137)
  • Prosthetics, including maintenance and repairs ($250,000)

There was also a Fox vs Wood element of the claim, which is a principle established in a 1981 case that entitles the plaintiff to recover additional income tax paid from refundable workers’ compensation receipts. This added a further $20,000 to the man’s compensation payment.

However, some of the plaintiff’s requests were dismissed. For example, the judge denied payments for psychiatric care, arguing that this seemed unnecessary for an accident that occurred in 2009.

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