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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