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Media Release – OHS Alert

Published on April 18, 2012 by Tim Concannon

A personal injury lawyer with 23 years’ experience has, at the inquiry into the NSW workers’ compensation scheme, virtually lampooned claims that WorkCover’s $4.1 billion deficit is linked to an “explosion” in damages claims and a lump-sum culture.

Tim Concannon, a NSW Law Society injury compensation committee member and a Carroll and O’Dea partner, told the inquiry this week that the vast majority of injured workers “express an abhorrence” at the idea of obtaining a lump sum instead of returning to work.

He said actuarial assessments that found there was a lump-sum culture appeared to be based on decade-old projections that ignored 2001 amendments to workers’ compensation laws that “significantly” removed access to such payouts.

“One of the assumptions the actuaries make is that over the last 18 months there has been an alleged explosion in the number of work injury damages claims,” Concannon said.

“We find it impossible, based on our own experience of cases that have developed over the last 12 to 18 months, to believe that such an explosion has occurred.

“On my limited ability as a lawyer to understand how actuaries have come to their assessment, it seems to me it may well be that these are based on projections of what may have happened before the [legislation changed] in 2001.”

… But Concannon told the inquiry that in his experience some 99 per cent of injured workers were “very enthusiastic about returning to work”.

“It is the systems in place or the injuries themselves that prevent them from returning to work, not some intent on their part to remain in the system and wait for the lump sum to materialise,” he said.

The maximum lump sums available – $100,000 for permanent impairment and $50,000 for pain and suffering – were “paltry”, Concannon noted.

“They would not attract anyone to remain in this system for an extended period of time.”

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