The Bundaberg District Law Association has warned Queensland’s workers’ compensation system would plunge into deficit with the planned introduction of impairment thresholds. The Association also highlights the undeniable fact that impairment thresholds are arbitrary, unfair and utterly disregard the particular personal circumstances of an injured person.
Workcover QLD plans introduction of impairment thresholds
Association president Chris Parker said the current system was strong and the proposed changes intensified the risk of further costs impositions on business, which threatened the financial viability of the scheme.
“Queensland has a best practice workers’ compensation scheme with employers paying premiums as low as Victoria, disputes are the lowest in the nation and it makes the most profit,” he said. The government was set to limit common law workplace injury claims with a Whole Person Impairment threshold, he said.
“Introducing a 5% threshold to limit common law claims would mean over 50% of people won’t be able to make a claim,” he said.
“If you’re an electrician and you sustain an injury that rates a modest impairment assessment but prevents you from working, such as a finger or hand injury, you have no redress through the courts.”
But peak industry group Master Builders has called for urgent amendments to the workers’ compensation scheme.
Executive director Grant Galvin said common law damages claims remained well above the historical average and accounted for a disproportionate amount of the overall cost of the scheme.
“In the building and construction industry, there has been a 23% increase in premiums in the last four years, with some sectors such as bricklaying and concreting up more than 30%,” Mr Galvin said.
“This is a massive concern for Master Builders.”
[Source: Association warns on workers’ comp |12th Oct 2013 News Mail]
Queensland WorkCover reforms threaten workers rights, legal experts warn
Jason Tin, Sarah Vogler
The Sunday Mail (Qld)
October 13, 2013 12:00AM
A knee injury sustained at work means Michael Lorenz is now a stay-at-home dad, caring for Khye, 5, Kasey, 3, and Carmen, 11 months.
Looming changes to Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme will end profiteering by “ambulance-chasing” lawyers and stop employees double-dipping, business says.
Legal experts, however, warn overhauling WorkCover could strip away the rights of thousands of workers.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie is scheduled to bring his proposed reforms before Cabinet tomorrow.
If successful, they could be introduced into State Parliament as early as this week.
Business is confident those changes will include capping common law payouts and the abolition of journey claims, which allow a worker to claim for an injury sustained on their way to and from the office.
A threshold could be introduced whereby an employee who sustains an injury rated at a level of between 0 to 5 per cent of permanent impairment would not be able to pursue a common-law claim.
Yesterday, however, Mr Bleijie maintained a final decision was yet to be made.
A Parliamentary committee has already recommended the Newman Government leave the scheme as it is, but the Government is not obligated to accept its recommendations.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland and the Master Builders Queensland say a threshold would see premiums dramatically decrease, with the average business saving about 15 per cent with respect to their premium.
“We also know our industry will save up to about 30 or 40 per cent, because we statistically have more injuries,” Master Builders executive director Grant Galvin said.
CCIQ general manager of advocacy Nick Behrens said there was an emerging litigious culture, with some workers “shopping around” while lawyers engaged in “profiteering”.
“In some instances, these employees who aren’t permanently impaired are getting cash payouts of $250,000 and then they’re back at work,” he said.
Mr Behrens said the business community would save about $350 million each year.
But lawyers and unions say the introduction of a threshold would deny almost 50 per cent of seriously injured workers the opportunity to pursue common-law claims.
“A 5 per cent threshold would wipe out about half of all current compo or damages claims,” Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Rod Hodgson said.
“That’s not a minor change, that’s a chainsaw.” Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said such changes would also trigger a sharp rise in the number of people disputing their injury assessment, adding a bureaucracy burden and blowing out costs.
INJURY LEAVES LIFE IN LIMBO
They say they can no longer work and have lost the jobs they love – but their injuries have been assessed as being less than 5 per cent on the permanent impairment scale.
Caboolture father of three Michael Lorenz was working as a labourer last year when he says an excavator bucket holding a concrete slab struck his leg, severely damaging his knee.
Mr Lorenz, 28, has no other qualifications and has had to remain at home while his wife takes on a new job. His injuries were assessed at a total of 2.5 per cent.
“It took me a while to understand what it actually meant,” he said. “No one understands. It’s really crappy on paper but when you try to tell them how much pain you’re in, they don’t believe you.”
Darren Mitchell, 47, says he was forced to give up his role as a paramedic following a back injury in 2012.
Mr Mitchell said he was moving a 50kg mannequin in a training exercise when he injured his back, enduring a disc bulge, and other injuries.
He was assessed at a zero per cent level.
“It still affects me now, I still get upset about it,” the Cairns resident said. “You have all these skills and you save lives. You see people who are near death and then you see them later on and they’re alive and they thank you and it’s just great to help them.”
The business community is pushing for a 5 per cent threshold to be introduced to WorkCover claims to prevent those assessed at between zero and 5 per cent from pursuing common-law claims.
[Kindly shard by our co-author “Rescape]