Significant changes to injured workers’ rights and entitlements

It is well known the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Act 2012 resulted in significant changes to injured workers’ rights and entitlements. Significantly, journey claims received on or after 19 June 2012 can only be made if there is a real and substantial connection between the employment and the incident out of which the injury arose.

This means that claims made for injuries sustained travelling to and from work are no longer compensable.

The case of Smith v Woolworths Ltd (2017) NSWWCC 290 provides a guiding interpretation of journey claims, when a journey in employment is deemed to have ended and when injury sustained in employment is ultimately compensable.

Ms Smith was employed by Woolworths at the Kiama Village Shopping Centre. On 14 May 2017, Ms Smith drove her vehicle from the centre and parked her car within the staff carpark. After parking her vehicle, Ms Smith then walked along a walkway outside the shopping mall. Prior to entering the shopping mall, she was attacked by a bird sustaining a severe right eye injury.

Woolworth’s liability for Ms Smiths’ injuries ultimately turned upon whether or not Ms Smiths journey had ceased and as to whether, pursuant to S9A and S4 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987, employment was a substantial contributing factor to injury and whether the injury arose out of the course of employment.

In finding for Ms Smith and determining that her injuries had a substantial connection to her employment, the Commission provided the following reasons:

  1. Was Ms Smith still on a Journey at the time of injury?
    1. Ms Smiths journey to her place of employment, in driving from her house to the staff car park had ended the moment, she crossed the boundary of land on which her employment is situated. The fact that Ms Smith had finished her journey resulted in her being deemed to be in the course of employment , the moment she had parked and exited her vehicle. Ms Smiths claim for compensation was therefore not considered to be under the provisions of a journey claim as she had already arrived at her place of work.
  2. Was employment a substantial contributing factor to Ms Smiths injuries and did the injury arise out of the course of employment

This case turned upon the decision of Starke J in Smith v Australian Woollen Mills Ltd, which helpfully provides an injury which arises directly out of circumstances encountered, places them within the scope of employment is an injury arising out of employment. Essentially, was Ms Smiths presence at Woolworths at the time of the bird attack, attributable to her employment.

It was determined by Arbitrator Harris that Ms Smiths employment had brought her to the place in which the injury occurred. Ultimately, Ms Smiths injuries inflicted by the bird, would not have occurred had she not been in the course of employment at the time of injury. Ms Smiths injuries were therefore deemed to be compensable pursuant to the Workers Compensation Act 1987.

The arbitrator awarded a total of $16,459.72 for weekly compensation, to compensate for Smiths absences from employment. Ms Smith was also entitled to payment of medical expenses relating to her injures.

The above case provides a helpful understanding of claims sustained as a result of journeys in the course of employment, as to when journeys are deemed to have ceased and what is deemed an injury arising out of the course of employment.

Seek legal advice

If you’ve injured yourself at work, had a claim denied or you need advice about a work-related injury, please contact our experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Turner Freeman on 13 43 63.