Case Study: Two Broken Legs But No Compensation

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1 Case Study: Two Broken Legs But No Compensation AJ I n 2004, 30 sheets of glass weighing about 750 kilograms fell on to 47-year-old construction company employee AJ when he was helping to unload a truck. He was pinned under the weight of the glass for some time, and sustained multiple fractures and irreparable damage to both legs. After two-and-a-half months in hospital and six months rehabilitation, AJ was left unable to walk or stand for long periods, and unable to bend or squat at all. His left leg now contains a pin and four nails, and his right knee has extreme ligament damage. AJ takes pain killers on a regular basis and often cannot sleep because of the intense discomfort. He cannot take part in activities he used to enjoy, like walking, and is no longer fit to work in construction. As a result of the injuries, AJ has developed arthritis in his knees and will require further operations in the future. Unable to return to the construction industry, AJ His left leg contains a pin and four nails, and his right knee has extreme ligament damage. now works in a job that is almost exclusively administrative and his income has dropped by $25,000 per annum. Despite the major income and lifestyle changes imposed on AJ and his family, and his constant pain and impending medical problems, AJ was assessed at only three per cent whole person impairment. This is 12 per cent below the threshold to claim compensation in New South Wales. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP and make your views known. Your actions can help make a positive change.

2 Case Study: Alicia was teaching our kids to swim Alicia T wenty-two-year-old Alicia, an occupational therapy student, was injured four years ago while working as a part-time swimming instructor. Her hand and wrist are now badly clawed, and she needs regular medication and injections. As her injuries prevent her from driving or taking public transport, Alicia is forced to rely on her mother, boyfriend and sister around the clock for transport to medical appointments and university. While she hopes to become a qualified occupational therapist, Alicia is aware that her injuries may prevent her from performing some of the more physical aspects of her chosen work. This will have a substantial impact on her career prospects. Alicia may recover over the course of 10 years but the she will never return to her preaccident state. Despite this, her injuries did not pass the I just want a fair assessment and to get better. Alicia required threshold, which means she can t sue for fair compensation under New South Wales harsh laws. A lump sum payment would have helped Alicia improve her quality of life. I just want a fair assessment and to get better, Alicia says. The legal barriers to fair compensation in New South Wales are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

3 Case Study: Bruce is Forced to Fight the System Bruce B ruce, a 43-year-old father of four, was badly injured while working as a forklift operator in a poorly lit and untidy yard in As he was moving around the yard on dusk, he stepped back onto a steel ball, slipped and landed on another steel ball. He was taken to hospital and underwent numerous x-rays and CT scans. The scans revealed damage to the discs in his neck. Bruce was referred to a neurosurgeon, and within a week he was booked in for surgery. After a painful six weeks, Bruce returned to work on light duties, although he still experienced pain in his arms, shoulders and neck. He later underwent another operation. After a further injury while helping a fellow worker repair a mill, he had MRI scans which revealed injuries to another two discs in his spine. He was admitted to hospital for a week and underwent further surgery. His employment was then terminated. His first set of injuries was assessed at just 6 per cent, meaning he was unable to claim compensation for pain and suffering as he did not meet the threshold. The second set of injuries was assessed at 15 per cent impairment, but the insurer disagreed with this assessment. It s really hard to keep fighting and fighting just to get what you should be entitled to. Bruce Bruce has been unable to find employment since his position was terminated. He is in constant pain and there has been substantial financial strain on the family. He believes the compensation system is a disgrace. How can a doctor see me for an hour and know what my life has become? Bruce says. They have made it such a hassle. It s really hard to keep fighting and fighting just to get what you should be entitled to. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

4 Case Study: Clinton Faces a Lifetime of Suffering Clinton T hirty-one-year-old Clinton was working as a furniture removalist in May 2005 when he was instructed by his employer to carry a baby-grand piano, weighing about 250kg, with a fellow worker. Clinton will have to deal with pain and disability for the rest of his life. Clinton felt his back give way while lifting, and sat down immediately, He notified his boss, who gave him the day off. The next day he came back to work on light duties and then spent the weekend recovering. The following week he was unloading a 5kg sideboard when he felt a series of five clicks in his back. His legs went numb and he had pain down the lower back. He was off work for 12 weeks. Clinton underwent numerous tests which confirmed severe lower back injuries and other complications. Despite the seriousness of these injuries, Clinton has been unable to recover any compensation for his pain and suffering. He had no choice but to quit his job as he couldn t perform his duties without aggravating the injury. He was unable to find work until February 2006 and will continue to lose substantial income for the rest of his working life. Clinton is angry with the current system as he feels that he did not receive adequate compensation for the financial loss the he has suffered and for the pain and disability he has to deal with for the rest of his life. It s time to restore fairness and consistency. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

5 Case Study: Crash Changes Course of Craig s Life Forever Craig F ifty-one-year-old Craig was driving home from work when another car, travelling 100km/h in a 60km/h zone, ran a red light, bounced off the car in front and flipped, landing on the roof of Craig s car. Craig sustained injuries to his neck and severely damaged his left shoulder. He had two operations on his shoulder and he continues to have problems with his neck. His pain is constant. Before the accident, Craig was the State Manager of a golf buggy retailer. His job entailed selling buggies to golf pros and he often teed-off with clients to secure the sale. Craig had a handicap of nine, sometimes playing up to three Pro-Am tournaments a week. Craig was off work for six months following the accident. When he returned, he was unable to play golf with clients and was put on lighter, office based duties. In January 2006 he was retrenched. In July he managed to find a new role as an engine salesman but is earning nearly $20,000 a year less than before the accident. Craig s injuries have been assessed as being below the required threshold for compensation. He will get nothing for the pain and suffering caused by the accident. Craig can no longer play golf and he has had to forfeit his pilot s license as a result of his injuries. His life has changed completely, through no fault of his own, yet he will not be compensated. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

6 Case Study: Dusan was just trying to earn a living Dusan I n June 2003, Dusan was badly burned while working at a fireworks factory in Sydney. Due to a build-up of friction in the machine he was operating, a large amount of gun powder ignited, setting off a series of explosions. Dusan suffered third-degree burns to about 70 per cent of his body. He was in an induced coma for two months and spent a further six months in hospital. If I do sue my employer, I would be on my own when it comes to paying for the cost of my future care. I simply can t afford to take that risk. Dusan Since then, he has undergone constant surgery to replace skin that was burnt off during the accident. Dusan s injuries mean has very little mobility in his upper body. He needs care 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. As Dusan s wife is now his primary carer, she is no longer able to work. Before the accident, Dusan loved working with his hands, and enjoyed painting and woodworking. Now, he is unable to do any of these activities. Had it not been for the changes made by the Carr Government, Dusan would have had a strong case against his employer for fair compensation. I have been told that if I do sue my employer, I would be on my own when it comes to paying for the cost of my future care, Dusan says. I simply can t afford to take that risk. Because of the accident I have lost everything. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

7 Case Study: Once Active Gino Stripped of Lifestyle Gino I n 2002, a negligent P-Plate driver caused a motor vehicle accident that stripped Gino of his active lifestyle. Just days before Christmas, Gino was travelling at 70km/hr when the P-Plater attempted to make a sudden right hand turn in front of his car. Less than 10m away, and with no time to brake, the two cars collided. The impact was so forceful that the steering wheel on Gino s car was completely twisted and bent. Almost immediately, Gino felt an ache all over his upper body. His neck and shoulders were sore, his chest was badly bruised and his hands began to tingle. He was referred to a number of specialists who discovered his neck had two bulging discs, for which nothing could be done surgically. He also had a tear in his shoulder blade socket and his right wrist. He now has limited use of his right arm, and continues to experience pain in his neck and shoulder. Before the accident, Gino was extremely active. He played competition ice hockey, went bike riding with his two children and took care of the physically demanding tasks around the family A mechanic by trade, the chances of him ever being able to return to his trade are slim. home, such as mowing the lawns. He is no longer able to do these things. Gino coaches minor league baseball, but since the accident he is unable to demonstrate techniques to his players and relies almost entirely on verbal coaching. A mechanic by trade, the chances of him ever being able to return to his trade are slim. Under NSW laws, Gino is not entitled to compensation for the injuries that were a result of another person s negligence. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP and make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

8 Case Study: Not at Fault, But Matteo s Lost a Lot Matteo M atteo was a passenger on the back of his friend s motorbike when the driver lost control, catapulting him onto the road. His ankle was dislocated and fractured in several places, and he suffered lacerations and bruising. In severe pain but still conscious, it was Matteo who called the ambulance to help take him and his friend to hospital. Matteo underwent surgery, with screws inserted into his ankle. The screws had been placed across the bone, preventing him from placing any weight on it. Two months later, Matteo had to undergo more painful surgery to remove the screws. Six months after the accident, Matteo began to walk again. Before the accident, the 25-year-old worked as a boilermaker. This job was very physically demanding, involving lots of lifting and heavy labour. Although he is back with the same employer, he has had to lighten his workload. Matteo was also a keen athlete, jogging regularly and participating in sports with his He cannot receive compensation for the pain and suffering he has endured as the result of an accident that wasn t his fault. mates after work. He has had to give this up. He has been told that he will develop osteoarthritis in his ankles in the future. Despite the seriousness of his injuries, Matteo was assessed at below 10 per cent whole person impairment. This means that he cannot receive compensation for the pain and suffering he has endured as the result of an accident that was not his fault. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action

9 Case Study: The System Has Forgotten Roselea Roselea R oselea had nursed the public for 25 years, but an accident at work left her completely forgotten. While working as a specialist theatre sister in 2002, Roselea was injured when a hospital roller shutter door unexpectedly slammed down, crushing her right hand. Her hand was seriously fractured, an injury that caused constant pain and severely restricted her movement. Now Roselea has trouble performing normal activities like light household chores, writing, clapping or shaking hands. She even needs help to dress and undress and to brush her teeth. To make matters worse, Roselea is now experiencing problems with her left arm, as her inability to use the right hand means she must use the left much more. Before her accident, Roselea loved the outdoors and enjoyed fishing, boating, bike riding, swimming and gardening. She can no longer do these things because Roselea has been completely let down now that she is in need of help. they cause so much pain. She also used to spend much of her leisure time entertaining and cooking, but this is now also impossible. Despite being left unable to work and continue the independent active lifestyle she enjoyed, harsh NSW laws mean that Roselea has no chance of being compensated for the changes to her life. Roselea looked after people in need for half her life, but has been completely let down now that she is in need of help. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP and make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

10 Case Study: Sarah Has Lost Her Sense of Security Sarah* F ive years ago, Sarah*, 45, was working as a nurse and sonographer in a public hospital in Sydney s southwest when she experienced severe pain in her neck, shoulders, back and arms. For five months, Sarah noticed increasing pain in her neck and upper limbs. Over time, she began to lose her upper body strength and had to take time off work to cope with the pain. One day, as Sarah was attempting to complete an ultrasound of a patient in intensive care, she noticed acute pain in her neck, shoulders and arms and tingling on the left side of her body. She pushed on for two more days before finding herself unable to keep up with even light duties at work. Several times, Sarah attempted to return to work, but found that her back pain worsened until she experienced pain and tingling down her right leg. Scans revealed that Sarah had sustained several injuries to the discs in her spine. It is accepted that these injuries were the result of the physical nature of her work. Two separate doctors assessed her degree of impairment at 36 per cent and 24 per cent respectively. However, the AMS doctor assessed Sarah at 0 per cent. She is angry as being assessed at 0 per cent despite medical evidence to the contrary. She cannot understand how a supposedly objective system can result in such different assessments by different doctors, based on the same scans. She is angry as being assessed at 0 per cent in the face of medical evidence to the contrary. Sarah will not receive a cent for pain and suffering because she falls below the 10 per cent threshold to claim compensation in New South Wales. The loss of Sarah s income means that her family is no longer financially secure. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP and make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action. *Name has been

11 Case Study: Shirley s Been Left to Fend for Herself Shirley I n May 2002, 57-year-old Shirley was assaulted by a resident while working as a cleaner at a psychiatric hospital in regional NSW. Shirley was cleaning a bedroom when she was repeatedly hit on the back of the head and grabbed around the neck, before managing to struggle free. She suffered neck and lower back injuries, which have led to numbness in her face, hands and foot. She also experiences problems with the nerve endings in her lower back, which causes falls. Shirley attempted to return to work but, still shaken by the attack, was unable to continue her duties. She has not been able to return to any other form of employment. The hospital admitted its failure to properly supervise the patient responsible for the attack. Before she was injured, Shirley played competition tennis and enjoyed bushwalking and fishing. Today, she is unable to do any of these activities, and she has difficulty with housework and gardening. Shirley s physical injuries were assessed by a doctor appointed by the WorkCover Authority, but she fell one per cent short of the threshold required to receive compensation for pain and suffering. The doctor failed to assess all of Shirley s injuries. You don t really know how unfair the system is until you have been injured. Shirley However, if Shirley was allowed to rely on the assessment performed by her own doctor, she would have exceeded this threshold. NSW s harsh laws mean she cannot combine her psychological injuries, which have been assessed at six per cent, and her physical injuries. Shirley didn t even get the chance to present her medical evidence to an independent adjudicator. You don t really know how unfair the system is until you have been injured, Shirley says. There needs to be an independent umpire to solve disputes. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

12 Case Study: Susan has lost her independence Susan A traffic accident in 2001 changed mother of three Susan s life forever. Susan was standing in front of her car, which had broken down on the side of the road, when it was struck from behind by another vehicle. In an instant, Susan found herself trapped beneath her car and in excruciating pain. After she was rushed to hospital, the severity of Susan s injuries soon became apparent. Her left hip had been crushed, her collarbone broken and she suffered serious head injuries. She also had extensive cuts and bruises. After spending a month in hospital, where she underwent a hip reconstruction, Susan was confined to bed for six months, then spent a further six months on crutches. Susan walks with the aid of a cane, has 50 staples in her right leg and experiences continuous hip and shoulder pain. She also suffers regular nightmares and driving causes her extreme anxiety. Susan can no longer do the things she once took for granted, such as housework and grocery shopping. She is heavily reliant on her family for support. Her teenage daughter deferred university to care for her. Susan had to pass an injury threshold of more than 10 per cent under NSW law. She missed out by 1 per cent, despite her severe injuries. As a result, she can t claim fair compensation. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

13 Case Study of an Injured New South Wales Citizen Susan S usan, 42, was working in the bindery of a printing company in 2002, in Smithfield NSW, when her supervisor asked her to move large stacks of sheet paper each weighing up to 20kg. The job was meant to be done by two people; and Susan was not given any training or instruction on how to do the job safely. When a colleague offered to help her, the supervisor told him to return to his department. Susan subsequently hurt her back. As she picked up one of the boxes she felt a shooting pain through her lower back, and her legs went numb. Susan had suffered a displaced disc that was touching a nerve running down her leg. Susan s injuries were assessed under the workers compensation system, and she cannot sue her employer for negligence. This is because of the changes that the Carr Government made to the law, making it harder for injured workers to sue their bosses for negligence. Susan has undergone surgery which helped ease the pain temporarily. But further scans showed that she had developed an infection which came about after her surgery. Susan is still in considerable pain. Susan is unable to work and do household chores. Her husband has had to work extra shifts to make ends meet. He is also responsible for all the household chores and most of the driving. Because Susan cannot sue her employer for negligence, she has to ask the insurance company to pay for her medical needs. This means she will often have to pay upfront and later make a claim for reimbursement. When she and her husband have to cover the costs of medical treatment themselves upfront it means they sometimes do not have enough money to pay the rent. All I needed was the medical treatment to get me back to my old life. Now everything is wrong. They [the insurance assessors] don t see you in pain they just see you in the twenty to thirty minutes of the assessment period. The system is unfair.

14 Case Study: At 23, Ted s Future is Uncertain Ted I n 2005, Ted was working up to eight metres above the ground on a building site when he fell, hitting the concrete below. His employer failed to provide scaffolding, safety equipment or training to keep Ted and his fellow workers safe onsite. When he fell, Ted lost consciousness and was flown by helicopter to Royal North Shore Hospital. Ted sustained head injuries, as well as injuries to his left shoulder, back, neck and ribs. Ted had a plate and eight screws inserted into his left shoulder. He does not know if they will ever come out. His head injuries mean he now has trouble concentrating and is forgetful. He has difficulty judging distances and finds himself knocking into things constantly. He can longer concentrate on reading science fiction novels, his favourite pastime before the accident. His doctors say that he will never be able to return to heavy work. Married with a 10-month-old son, Ted has tried bar work as a means of supporting his family, but finds it too painful and difficult. Despite the severity of his injuries, Ted s lawyers say that he is unlikely to meet the required threshold to receive compensation. At just 23 years old, Ted faces an uncertain future. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

15 Case Study: Prison Officers Caught in Crossfire C orrectional Tony and Tim officers Tony and Tim were both badly injured during a riot at a NSW prison in April While going to the aid of two fellow employees, who were being beaten by a number of prisoners, Tony and Tim were attacked, kicked, punched and received severe blows to the head with a wooden instrument. Tim was knocked unconscious and spent six weeks in a coma in hospital. He nearly died on several occasions. His head injuries have affected his speech and other cognitive functions. He also has spinal injuries and suffers ongoing psychological trauma. Tony s severe head injuries required 56 stitches, and he also suffered a broken vertebrae in his neck. Since the attack he has become insular, uncomfortable in crowds and has struggled in personal and business relationships. He no longer pursues his interest in singing in his band. Neither Tony nor Tim have been able to return to work as correctional officers. Tim is unlikely to be able to ever work again. Although Tony is no longer the same person he was before the incident, he is unable to combine his physical and mental injuries and does not meet the threshold required to receive compensation for pain and suffering. Tim was knocked unconscious and spent six weeks in a coma at Canberra hospital. He nearly died several times. Tim s injuries are sufficient enough to reach the threshold. However if he chooses to go ahead and claim damages, he will not be able to claim expenses for ongoing and future medical treatment under NSW law. No other workers compensation system in Australia forces victims to make such an election. Although damages would have helped me get my life back together sooner, my concern is for others, as the system is so unfair, Tony says. The legal barriers to fair compensation in NSW are too harsh. They need to be Contact your local MP to make your views known. Nothing will change unless you take action.

16 Case Study: Tragic Accident Made Worse by Harsh Laws Nick and Josh* T he lives of two young boys were changed forever when they were involved in a tragic accident in May 2002, which claimed the lives of their parents and their younger brother. Josh, who was just 4 years old at the time of the accident, was thrown 20 metres and broke both legs. He now has a shortened left leg due to the way in which the break has mended. He experiences cramps in his legs and cannot do many of the things a boy of his age should be able to do. His brother Nick, who was 6, sustained a compound fracture to his left arm and a broken wrist. He suffered a fractured pelvis, lacerations to his bladder and spleen, bruised kidneys and lungs, and head injuries. His left arm is permanently deformed and often painful. Nick and Josh both suffer from nightmares and are anxious and fearful. They obviously grieve for the loss of their parents and brother. Under the MAA Guidelines, the boys psychological and physical injuries cannot be combined and they do not meet the 10 per cent threshold which would entitle them to proper compensation for pain and suffering. The boys are cared for by their aunt. This has placed enormous financial pressure on her and she has received little assistance from the insurance company in helping Nick and Josh to live a normal life. These are two young kids who have been seriously injured and are never going to have a mum and dad and brother again, the boys aunt says. I can t heal their hearts, I can t heal their minds and I can t heal their scars. I want the insurance company to pay for people who can do all that they don t want to. Only a fair compensation system will help children like these *The boys names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Mary* I gave 100 per cent to my patients while I was a nurse. Now that I m injured, the system has let me down.

Mary* I gave 100 per cent to my patients while I was a nurse. Now that I m injured, the system has let me down. Mary* M ary* had been working as a nurse for the best part of 30 years before she was hurt at work. In April 2003, she was adjusting a trolley carrying a 97 kilogram patient when it threatened to collapse.

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