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Gaius Whiffin discussing Personal Injury Law

Gaius Whiffin providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show – discussing Personal Injury Law – 23 August 2016

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


            CS – Chris Smith /GW Gaius Whiffin/ C1,2,3, etc – Callers 



CS       Yeah did you know – 1 in 6 Australians currently experience some form of hearing loss and in 10% of cases, it’s caused by the person’s occupation. Well this week is Hearing Awareness Week and we’ll catch up with Brett Lee a little bit later in the program. But it reminds us of how precious and fragile our hearing is. So today we’ll hear about what rights you have if your hearing has been damaged because of your work. Thanks to Turner Freeman Lawyers and their Legal Segment, we also have as usual a $100 Westfield voucher to give away to the caller who asks, well one of the relevant questions of the afternoon and Turner Freeman of course provide a range of specialised legal services including compensation  and  negligence law, asbestos litigation, superannuation and disability claims, family and employment law, Wills and estate and property law. Their NSW offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Penrith, Newcastle and the Gong (Wollongong). And they also have offices in Queensland, South Australia and WA and if you’ve got a question on personal injury law, this is your cue to call. Free legal advice. Jump on right away. 131 873 on the subject of personal injury law.

Gaius Whiffin is an accredited specialist in personal injury law and he supervises one of the largest industrial deafness compensation practices in the State. Gaius is based at Turner Freeman Sydney office and he joins us in the studio right now. Gaius, thank you very much for coming.

GW     Hi Chris.

CS       What are some causes of hearing loss in the workforce? Now, I know you are looking at me with a pair of headphones on and the sound is rather loud in my phones, but that’s the way I like it. This is an obvious one for most of us radio hosts – we hear – you know on very high volume and that could cause damage? 

GW     That certainly can. That certainly can. The common causes in the workplace are obviously industry such as construction, water front – where exposed to heavy industrial machinery and especially if you are actually working indoors in factories and so forth where you’ve got a lot of machinery and the noises couped in. Actual hearing loss can be a number of causes, obviously as you get older you do experience hearing loss, it can be due to things like wax build up, it could be due to a …… you know something that you are born with, but in an increasing number of cases, it’s the workplace is in some way responsible – it doesn’t always have to be the only cause, but it’s a significant cause in a lot of cases of hearing loss.

CS       Okay – lets – before we go further – let’s take Phil’s call. Gaius is listening – go right ahead. 

Caller 1 – Phil 

Phil     Yeah – hi guys – hi Chris. Can you hear me?            .

CS       We can hear you – go right ahead – yeah.

Phil     I’ve been injured in a work accident probably about 2 years ago now and I actually dropped – I was just making a delivery – I’m a truck driver and making a delivery and dropped a tonne of [Kondut pots] and it went off – it was in a very high acoustic area and it went off like a shotgun and as a result I suffer from tinnitus. 

GW     Yes – tinnitus.

Phil     Yep – just constant ringing in my ears all the time. Now the company did – oh no – the workers compensation – well they’ve sent me to specialists and things like that and I am getting treatment for this injury which after 2 years hasn’t come good at all and what I’m wondering is that ….. I wear hearing aids now….. would I be entitled to any compensation at all from the employer for this injury? Because it’s just constant ringing all the time.

GW     Yeah – Phil was it?

Phil     Phil – yeah.

GW     Yeah. Phil – look when you are injured at work you are entitled to basically three things. Firstly you are entitled to medical costs and that includes hearing aids and if you are going to require hearing aids on an ongoing basis then if you need them for the rest of your life as may be the case then you are entitled to that. Secondly, if you needed time off work, you are entitled to be paid for that time off work subject to limitations. If you managed to get back to work within 2 ½ years you generally get covered to a fair degree of your wage loss. In terms of any lump sum compensation, for a hearing loss and it doesn’t matter whether you are injured in a single event like you were or whether you are injured due to exposure to industrial noise over many years – you need to have 20.5% hearing loss to be entitled to compensation. That equates to 11% whole person impairment and that’s the threshold now in NSW since 2012.

Phil     Okay. Um….

GW     So you need to get your hearing tested and if it’s over 20.5%, you might have a claim for a lump sum.

Phil     Alrighty. Okay – I appreciate that.

CS       Good on you Phil. Thank you very much. So that was my next question. There is a threshold which you need to lose your hearing to have a case.

GW     To have a case for a lump sum yes, but to – but the other main benefit in a lot of cases is to have decent hearing aids. Hearing aids you know cost anywhere from $2,000 to you know sky’s the limit to some degree. The workers compensation system provides better hearing aids than you are going to get under the Commonwealth system which deals with most cases with people who need hearing aids through pensions and so forth.

CS       Okay. Let’s go to the South Coast of NSW. Patrick go right ahead.

Caller 2 – Patrick 

Patrick           Yeah – G’day – I’m Patrick Neville. I own a security company on the far South Coast of NSW – Two Fold Security. I’ve just come out of court where two people who are alleged to have bashed one of my guards on the 23rd of July 2016 – were just given a sentence by the Magistrate – the sentence was 12 months suspended sentences for both people and a $1,000 fine each. Now, the victim – my guard – he suffers – and this is what gets me – the police prosecutor never got up and said all this – but I’m saying it – the guard fractured a fractured eye socket – a collapsed lung – broken ribs – he’s currently suffering blurred vision and is off work – my workers compensation covers a lot of things sure –but all the medical bills and about $50,000 worth of bloody ongoing you know – ongoing things – the police time – the doctor’s time and emergency department and everything else – these blokes get off with a $1,000 bloody fine – what are the courts doing? This is absolute rubbish.

CS       That is a shocker. I want to talk to you about the case in general a little later – I’ll put you back to the switch shortly Patrick – so don’t put the phone down straight after this phone call is finished – but your question for Gaius is what?

Patrick            Well my question is – where or who – how does it work?  Who pays – like the insurances – my insurances pay my time – my effort – I’ve got to find – my guard was a hard worker and everything else – that’s fine – he’s getting looked after workers comp. I’ve got to find workers – I’ve got to fit in and fill in shifts that he did – right – and get other workers to do that because these two ratbags decided to get pissed and go out and bash him from behind and kicking him whilst he’s on the ground and the bloody magistrate gives him what – gives them both 12 months suspended sentence – well give me a [wet lettuce leaf] and a $1,000 fine each.

CS       Just a shocker. But Patrick your question is your employee’s actually suing you for all these costs right?

Patrick            No – no my employees a great bloke – don’t get me wrong – he’s fantastic. I’m looking after him.

CS       Yeah good.

Patrick            Because my employees – hey – I stand by him every step of the way and I look after him.

CS       Good on you.

Patrick            My point is, is that the people that perpetrate the crime they pleaded guilty – they couldn’t remember what they bloody well done – they couldn’t remember because they were too pissed – um – you know they get off with nothing. The cost of the community – no wonder our hospitals are under such strain from these people that just get off – they’ll go off – who knows what they will do. Hopefully never offend again.

CS       Exactly. Patrick – can I ask you to hold on and I want to put you through to Carla and I want to take your details and I want to look at the case very closely because I would have thought if there was room for an appeal by the DPP, that case is certainly up there. So stay there Patrick – I’ll put you through – I don’t think he was wanting to gain any information through compensation from you.

GW     No – yeah – his worker is lucky that he got injured at work because if you’re attacked in that sort of situation –

CS       Outside of work.

GW     Your victim’s compensation rights are absolute rubbish these days. They are…….  You know.

CS       What’s the maximum in that victims compensation? $22,000 is it?

GW     Yeah?  It’s not my particular area – it’s very very minute. You really get peanuts.

CS       I think it is under the NSW…….

GW     You really get peanuts these days for bad injuries.

CS       Yeah. Graham go ahead – Gaius is listening.

Caller 3 – Graham 

Graham.         Yeah – Good afternoon – I’m enjoying your program.

CS       Thank you.

Graham          Look for about 15 years I was a boating officer on Sydney Harbour on a patrol boat four out of my five day working week and I received ear damage from the outboard motors that we had in those days at the back of the boat. We have twin 250s – two strokes not 4 strokes and they are quite noisy. Now I was assessed by a number of doctors and found to have only about 6% loss of hearing and then that was reduced to about 3 ½ on a second consultation. But I still got a lump sum payment. I only got about $4,000 in those days – this is 10 years ago now. I’m retired – but I still have the tinnitus going and part of the deal that finished the whole procedure was that I could have free ear treatment from a specialist for the rest of my living days – which I thought was quite good. Is there a cure for tinnitus?

CS       Laughing – you’re looking for a doctor’s advice here.

GW     Not that I’ve heard – certainly not – no – it’s a horrible thing – I’d hate to experience it.

CS       Yeah – Graham – I can’t help you there but what I can do there Graham is give you the $100 Westfield voucher as a small consultation – how’s that?

Graham          Oh look you are very kind – perhaps someone more needy from me should have it.

CS       Okay Graham – thank you very much. Is there a …… You don’t know of any cure for tinnitus do you?

GW     No. No. I don’t.

CS       It’s something that we could probably ask Brett Lee a little bit later when he comes in.

GW     It is…. briefly it is included in the assessment these days of the actual hearing loss – so if you’ve got 18% and have got significant tinnitus – you might get over that 20% because of that severe tinnitus.

CS       It must be a horrible thing to have for life.

GW     Yes I can’t imagine.

CS       And in Graham’s case he was talking about a $4,000 payout at the time so many years ago.

GW     That was the law back then. These days that sort of impairment doesn’t get you any lump sum payout.

CS       Yeah – what other – I’m just interested to hear his occupation. It’s interesting that that kind of occupation would obviously be an occupation where you could lose your hearing and there’d be many like it too?

GW     It’s constant exposure to loud noises – you know if you’re a council worker working on jack hammers and so forth – it’s not just what you would expect to be the really loud environment – you can go from being in a quite environment to a very loud environment in a lot of professions.

CS       Okay – I’ve run out of times Gaius Whiffin – thank you so much for your time this afternoon.

GW     My pleasure.

CS       Alright from Turner Freeman Lawyers and our Legal Matters segment for this afternoon.


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