Injured workers’ success despite unreasonable terminations | Four Corners

Friday 7 August 2020
Bree Knoester

Before she was injured at work Christine Iliopoulos enjoyed an exceptionally active lifestyle – engaging in a wide variety of sporting and social activities with family and friends. 

Although the severity of her injury significantly diminished her capacity to continue this way of life; the path to recovery might have been easier if the WorkCover system hadn’t denied her the chance to get her life back at every turn.

The injury 

Christine’s worked in retail and her duties were often physical; requiring bending, lifting and twisting movements; and frequently she was required to move heavy furniture alone or with little assistance. 

During the course of her employment in early 2012, Christine moved heavy items and felt pain in her lower back.  She reported the incident to her employer and completed an Incident Report form.  Christine did not lodge a WorkCover claim as she thought her injury would resolve. 

Christine did not want to lose her job, so she continued to work, in pain, for several weeks.

As the pain did not resolve, Christine visited her GP who certified her unfit for work and placed her on light duties. 

In early 2013 Christine took a position at a different store which allowed her a reduced commute time.  During one particular shift, Christine received a large delivery which was required to be unpacked and distributed around the store.  She experienced pain throughout the 10 hour shift and when she bent to open a draw at the end of the day, felt a sharp pain together with burning and numbness in both feet. When Christine returned home, her daughter and partner had to help her out of the car and carry her inside.  Christine reported the incident to her manager.

Christine was certified for light duties and lodged a WorkCover claim form.  Her claim was accepted and weekly payments and medical and like expenses were paid for by the Insurer.

In 2016, after multiple attempts of undertaking different treatment and rehabilitation options, Christine ultimately underwent back surgery and later a spinal cord stimulator was implanted to assist in alleviating her pain.

Christine’s workplace injury and the battles with her WorkCover Insurer seemed at times, insurmountable and overwhelming and Christine attempted suicide on more than one occasion.

Eight years after she was first injured at work and to this day, Christine continues to suffer with both the physical and mental consequences of her injury. 

Her claim

After being in receipt of her basic entitlements for 130 weeks, Christine’s weekly payments were unreasonably terminated by the Insurer.  This would not be the only time Christine would require assistance from a lawyer to have her payments reinstated or treatment funded.  Christine was required to take her claims for reinstatement of payments and medical expenses to Conciliation on several occasions.  In 2018 the Medical Panel confirmed Christine’s incapacity was work related and her weekly payments were reinstated and treatment funded.

“Sadly, terminations of weekly payments at 130 weeks occurs in even the most straightforward WorkCover claim,” explains Bree Knoester Managing Partner at Adviceline Injury Lawyers.

“Christine’s injury was being managed by reputable treating and senior doctors who were recommending treatment which would assist her resume her normal daily activities.

“But she was not believed.  Her doctors were not believed.  The insurer blocked requests for payment of essential treatments at every turn.”

In 2018, Christine was successful in obtaining an impairment benefit due to the permanent impairment she sustained from her work related injury, in addition to her weekly payments, to support her recovery. 

Due to the serious impact of the workplace injuries on her life, Christine was also granted a Serious Injury Certificate entitling her to file a claim seeking damages for pain and suffering and economic loss at common law, which claim was also successful.

Navigating a flawed system

The workers compensation system was designed to facilitate a worker’s recovery should they suffer an injury or illness in the course of their employment.

In Victoria, Ombudsman Deborah Glass has twice investigated and made recommendations to address the fundamental and systemic flaws facing the system in Victoria.  Across both investigations she has found that the agents of WorkSafe often act contrary to the best interests of the worker – often for financial incentive.

The workers compensation team at Adviceline Injury Lawyers are well versed in the flaws facing the insurance system for work place injuries in Victoria and can assist you in receiving your rightful entitlements following an injury at work.

If you, or someone you know, would like more information about making a workplace injury claim or if your payments have been terminated, contact us on (03) 9321 9988.

As featured on Four Corners

You may also be interested in:

  1. WorkSafe under fire as Ombudsman releases new investigation report
  2. An overview of the WorkSafe investigation
  3. 130 week terminations
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