RSL Care Ltd -v- Wallace  QCA23
In Brisbane, a 42-year-old residential care-worker was awarded the sum of $480, 000 for injuries she sustained at work which is subject to a WorkCover claim.
The insurers appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal, claiming the award should not have been given. However, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal with costs and Ms Wallace’s original judgement for $480,784 was reinstated.
Ms Wallace was employed as a residential care-worker. Her duties included showering residents. She suffered injuries when she slipped and fell after showering a patient who was confined to a wheeled shower-chair.
She was crouched while showering the patient and as she went to get up, her left foot slipped and she went over, twisting her ankle and also sustaining injuries to her hip and back.
The court heard expert evidence as to the slipperiness of the floor. The court preferred the evidence led by Ms Wallace’s expert – to that of the Workers’ Compensation insurer’s expert. Tests performed by the workers’ expert showed that the floor surface to be well below the suggested minimum requirements of the Australian standards.
The judge found that the workplace was inadequate, and as a result of this, Ms Wallace had slipped.
WorkCover QLD attempted to lead expert evidence to argue that the workplace was reasonably safe, and that a person exercising proper care in the position of Ms Wallace should have avoided her fall.
Delay in reporting injuries
Ms Wallace did not seek medical treatment for her injuries immediately following the incident. For a considerable time afterwards, she attempted to
“soldier on”, and it was not until some time later that she sought medical treatment.
Eventually, after consulting medical experts, she did require surgical intervention to correct her ankle.
During the course of her Workers’ compensation claim, WorkCover QLD attempted to argue that due to the passage of time, her health complaints could not be related to the incident due to a failure to report the injuries within a short period of time after the incident
Ms Wallace was able to obtain suitable medical evidence to show her injuries were as a result of the work injury, and therefore, her WorkCover claim was one which was subsequently accepted.
Ms Wallace was awarded a substantial sum for general damages for pain and suffering, together with past and future income loss. She was also awarded sums for past special damages, i.e., out-of-pocket expenses, and also awarded sums for future special damages and also past and future care.
The case goes to show that provided injured workers receive appropriate and expert advice, then their rights can be fully protected.
It also shows that there can be a number of obstacles when pursuing a WorkCover claim against WorkCover QLD.
It is, therefore, important that if you suffer a work injury or Workplace injury which is subject of a Workers’ Compensation claim, that you seek appropriate advice in a timely manner to ensure your rights are protected.
Please do not hesitate to contact this office if you have any queries with respect to any WorkCover matter.