*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in New South Wales.
The NSW Government has recently proposed a bill known as the State Insurance and Care Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. This bill is important for injured workers as it intends to make some important changes regarding claims for workers’ compensation death benefits.
Currently, where death results from a workplace injury, compensation such as for funeral expenses, weekly payments to any children and lump sum death benefit, can be payable.
The lump sum death benefit is indexed twice a year and is presently in the fixed amount of $849,900.00. This lump sum amount is apportioned across the deceased worker’s dependants.
In some circumstances, liability for the worker’s death is disputed. In such circumstances and under the current legislation, this means an all or nothing proposition for the deceased worker’s dependents and the insurer. This can often result in a lengthy and emotionally protracted litigation process for the family members of the deceased. Moreover, if liability for the worker’s death is disputed and cannot be overturned, there is no compensation payable whatsoever to families and dependents.
The Government, in their second reading speech of the bill, acknowledges the following:
“… the current framework, which can result in prolonged litigation following a death and where there is no ability for the parties to reach a reasonable compromise, could be improved. Litigation can add to families’ grief, and the uncertainty of the outcome can be unbelievably distressing.”
The bill, if passed, will allow parties to a death benefit dispute to agree to settle their dispute for a compromised lump sum amount as opposed to being an all or nothing outcome.
The intention behind these changes is to provide an option for such disputes to resolve quicker, without an emotionally protracted litigation process and to ensure that any settlement is reasonable, fair and proportionate.
If the lump sum death benefit is settled on a compromised basis, the insurer must also accept liability for death benefit compensation. This means that it will automatically follow that the other death benefits relating to funeral expenses, costs of transporting the body and weekly payments to any children, are payable in full in the usual way. None of these benefits can be settled on a compromised basis.
The bill remains under consideration by parliament.
If you have questions in relation to the proposed changes to death benefit claims or worker’s compensation claims generally, please do not hesitate to contact Turner Freeman.