By way of background, the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) provides for the payment of lump sum compensation to injured workers in respect of future economic loss (section 56) and also non-economic loss or pain and suffering (section 58). An injured worker’s entitlement to those lump sums is dependent on an assessment of the worker’s permanent impairment (or whole person impairment) carried out under section 22 of the Act.
The decision of Summerfield follows a line of cases relating to what happens when an injured worker has more than one impairment to which a degree (or percentage figure) of permanent impairment can be attributed.
In the most conclusive judgement on the issue to date, the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court held that the circumstances in which percentage figures can be combined is much broader than what Return to Work SA considered them to be.
The decision is a very complex one and for a detailed summary click here.
The consequences of Summerfield are likely to be far reaching.
For starters, it is likely that many more injured workers will reach the 30% threshold required for them to be deemed to be a “Seriously Injured Worker”. If that is the case, those workers are entitled to (in addition to their lump sum entitlements) income maintenance until their retirement age and medical expenses for life. That is significantly greater than the maximum of 2 years of income maintenance afforded to injured workers under the Act.
Another potential consequence is that in light of the unexpected costs which may flow from there being more Seriously Injured Workers, the Return to Work scheme is likely to be revisited by the State Government. Any change to the Act may have implications for your entitlements.
With that in mind, if you are a person who is receiving or has received workers’ compensation but has not yet been assessed in respect of your whole person impairment then we suggest that you urgently contact our workers' compensation lawyers on (08) 8231 1110. Our initial half hour consult is free of charge.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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