The Federal Court has found a truck driver’s workcover claim for depression was not linked to a back injury he suffered a few years earlier and found his employer Linfox not liable. The injured worker – rightly so we believe -claimed the tribunal’s reasoning process, in particular its implicit adoption of the “unfortunate co-incidence” theory of workers’ compensation, was so unreasonable that no reasonable person could adopt it.
Court finds Linfox injured worker’s depression workcover claim not linked to back injury
The NSW Federal Court heard the appeal from an Administrative Appeals Tribunal which involved 44-year-old truck driver Stefan Pettge.
Pettge suffers from an underlying lumbar degenerative condition known as spondylosis and was employed by Linfox as a truck driver and to transport and unload roll-cages of supermarket goods on pallets from his truck.
Pettge injured his back in August 2008 while trying to move “heavy cages with stock jammed down between them” and claimed compensation for “lower back pain”.
Linfox was liable to pay Pettge compensation for the “sprain to lower back” and noted that “should you [Pettge] wish to claim compensation beyond 29 August 2008 you will be required to provide further medical evidence to support your claim.”
Almost a year later, in November 2009, Pettge requested Linfox review its determination, which the transport company did. It determined he was “now recovered from the effect of the sprain to the lower back… and is not presently incapacitated for work or requiring any medical treatment relevant to the injury”.
Pettge made a further claim in 2010 to Linfox for compensation for “disc prolapse lower back, arm and neck, and depression” that he said were linked to the original injury.
Linfox rejected the claim and Pettge then appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which found there was no direct link between the new claim and previous injury.
“We consider that the length of time between the incident at work and the onset of neck pain and arm symptoms suggests that there is no direct causal link between the two,” the Tribunal found.
The Tribunal found Pettge’s depression was first reported in January 2010 in his general practitioner’s clinical notes and claimed for in November 2010.
It found Pettge’s injury had ceased by August 2009 and the pain he experienced after that time was due to his underlying degenerative disease and “his depression was not contributed to by his employment.”
Pettge appealed this decision to the Federal Court on the basis that he had been denied natural justice, as the tribunal had departed from an agreed fact, and that the tribunal had posed the wrong question.
WTF… here we go… an abuse by Linfox and dare we say the Judge to blame an injured man’s depression on the “co-incidence theory of workers compensation”. What the hell does this imply huh?
The Federal Court dismissed Pettge’s appeal on the basis that the “undisputed facts” he set out linking his back pain to depression and neck and arm symptoms were not accepted by Linfox as a common basis upon which the parties put their respective cases to the Tribunal.
SmartCompany contacted Linfox but the company declined to comment about the case.
[source; 9 July: http://www.smartcompany.com.au/legal/050594-court-finds-linfox-employee-s-depression-claim-not-linked-to-back-injury.html]
A common example would be developing stress, tension headaches, anxiety, panic attacks, teeth grinding, insomnia, irritability, weight changes etc. because you are being bullied, harassed and or intimidated at work, i.e. during a return to work program. Or starting to feel anxious, easily startled, nervous, sick to your stomach by the way you are being treated by your workcover case manager or a rehab service provider. You really need to go and see your doctor and formally tell him/her that you are experiencing [these] symptoms and that you believe they are brought about by what is occurring at work; how you are being treated, etc. “If it is not documented, it never happened”.
Without an early medical record of all your injuries, and photos if they are physical and where possible, it will be very difficult later to convince the workcover insurance company that you were injured in the ways and to the degrees you claim.
Visible injuries may heal and may not look as serious later. Psychological injuries are “invisible”. Failing to seek immediate treatment can lead a workcover insurance company to believe – as they do- that your injuries were not so serious,or even that you invented or exaggerated them after the accident.
Related article: Why it’s so important to document your work injury