Most people making a claim for industrial deafness have had more than one noisy job, and each of the employers at those jobs may have a different WorkCover insurer. It is nearly impossible to work out how much hearing loss was caused by each employer, and how much each should pay, so the Victorian Parliament decided we do not have to.
A WorkCover claim for hearing loss must be made against the last noisy employer where exposure is capable of causing industrial deafness, however brief that exposure might have been. The last noisy employer is not necessarily your last or current employer, the noisiest employer, the employer where you were exposed for the longest or the employer which you think caused your hearing loss.
Starting with your most recent employment, work backwards through your jobs until you come across employment where you were exposed to noise capable of causing industrial deafness. That is your last noisy employer.
In the past, it was nearly impossible to apportion responsibility for hearing loss between several employers. Arguments about which employer caused what extent of the loss tied up courts and delayed claims, meaning it was understandably hard to deliver justice and see results. In the meantime, the injured were left deaf, uncompensated and frustrated. In addition, a lot of companies which contributed to hearing loss are unregistered by the time claims are made. The nature of many noisy industries means companies fold and phoenix and their ex-employees are left without recourse.
To counter these issues, the Victorian Parliament decided that the last noisy employer would be held responsible and fairness would be achieved for the injured in quick and fruitful settlements. For the employers, it would be a matter of ‘swings and roundabouts’ as well as the advantage of lowering legal fees spent contesting these relatively small claims.
Unfortunately, claiming against the last noisy employer sometimes means your claim has to be submitted to your current boss. Some employees do not want to make a claim against their current employer – and this is a personal choice. It is true that WorkCover premiums may increase if a claim is accepted against your boss, but those premiums are paid so employers will be able to help their employees in times of need. Decent employers will take this approach to genuine claims.
Some employees would like to wait until after they have left an employer and then begin a claim. If you would like to take this approach, be aware that any subsequent employment is taken into account in identifying the last noisy employer. If you move on to a job where you are exposed to noise, your claim moves with you. If this is to your own business and you do not have WorkCover insurance, your claim will be defeated.
Victorian workers must look to their last noisy employer when making a WorkCover claim for hearing loss. This helps ensure more Victorians are covered by the scheme and reduces the time and legal fees spent arguing about who was responsible. Adviceline Injury Lawyers can help you identify who your last noisy employer was, who they are insured by and whether you would be entitled to hearing aids or compensation. For more information, you can contact our hearing loss team on (03) 9321 9988.