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Newsworthy Case: Field Officer gets compensation after Work Place Injury

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Please note that this post was written for Victorian audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.

A recent WorkCover claim saw a Field Officer settle for $740,000. The aged 48 Plaintiff approached Zaparas Lawyers early in 2020 due to an initial pain in their neck and left shoulder. This pain was caused by repetitive movements while wearing a welding helmet over the course of a couple of months during their work on a big company project. This reported injury resulted in the plaintiff being unable to work for the rest of their life and this win showcases justice for a working-class individual getting the compensation that they justly deserve.

The plaintiff was a hardworking and loyal member of his company for 18 years doing manual labour work. Toward the later part of 2019 their work evolved to include a significant amount of welding, where they would have to flick their head up and down to adjust the mask due to a significant glare.  This work led them to develop pain affecting the left anterior neck, which spread to involve the supraclavicular regions on both sides. This pain would get worse bilaterally. While the plaintiff did originally cease work late November 2019 for a week, their return lead him to continue his pre-injury duties which put them in constant agony.  After a week or two the pain spread down the outer aspect of both forearms, affecting all the digits on the left hand, which happened to be their preferred hand. Even making it difficult to make a fist.

The plaintiff fully ceased work on the 10th of February 2020 with the following cited as symptoms:

  • Unable to lift arm above shoulder height
  • Unable to lift more than approx. 2kg
  • Increased pain with repetitive arm use
  • Constant pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Numbness in both hands that fluctuates
  • Difficulty with any sustained neck flexion or extensions

Due to an inability to work, the plaintiff made a WorkCover claim via Zaparas Lawyers on the 25th of February 2020, which was accepted. While this WorkCover claim gave them some stability during such a rough period of time, the pain worsened. A medical panel gave their certificate of opinion stating that ‘the worker is suffering from persisting cervical dysfunction due to an aggravation of cervical degenerative disc disease.’ With such pain directly affecting not only their ability to go back to work but also the day-to-day activities (only be able to assist in lighter chores and a driving tolerance of 40 km) the doctor sent a request to the insurer for neck surgery.  Not only was this surgery request denied but another request in February 2021 was knocked back by a Medical Panel, suggesting trying more conservative actions to reduce to pain first. Despite trying these alternate therapies (such as nerve block injections) the workers pain was not subsiding.

Finally, on the 31st of May 2021 an insurer accepted the double level fusion surgery to take place on the 21st of June. Following the initial Surgery the decision was made to claim damages via a Common Law claim. The negligence on behalf of the employer was shown throughout the workers time at their workplace (since 2003), not just their most recent work where the initial pain started whilst welding.

The particulars of the employer’s negligence included the failure to provide a safe system of work for their employee, as well as a failure of identifying the potential hazards and injury risk associated with the array of repetitive and arduous duties the plaintiff had to perform over the years. Not only did this negligence cause an inability to continue at work it also affected other areas of their life. At home duties and recreational hobbies (riding motorbikes, camping, fishing) were all negatively impacted by the injuries as well as the ability to get any sort of stable sleeping pattern. Beside the physical anguish, they also had to deal with the mental health struggle that such a tumultuous time bring. A constant anxiety regarding the future of their income as their training and expertise all laid within jobs requiring manual labour.

Since the initial neck pain in November 2019, the worker had been on a three-year journey that finally concluded on the 12th of December 2022. Zaparas finally managed to settle their Common Law claim for pain and suffering and economic loss. Their years of constant pain and strife somewhat rewarded with a payment of $740,000. A fantastic way to close the year and a positive end to an unfortunate circumstance that led a loyal working-class person to lose the ability to work.

For more information on WorkCover you can visit our page here

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