In the case of Hannover Life RE of Australasia Ltd v Dargan
 NSWCA 57, Mr Dargan injured his lower back at work in
July 2007 and was unable to continue working as a truck driver. He
had been employed for approximately 11 years working 40 hours per
Six months after the injury, Mr Dargan was assessed as eligible
for total permanent disablement benefits under a group life policy
with Hannover Life. Just under a year after the injury, he obtained
an ancillary certificate which entitled him to drive a taxi for 20
hours per week.
Mr Dargan's claim for total permanent disablement benefits
was rejected by Hanover on the grounds that there was evidence to
demonstrate that he was able to perform regular remunerative work
as a taxi driver for which he was reasonably fit according to his
previous work experience as a truck driver.
The trial judge disagreed. He found that at the time of the
assessment (namely after his injury but before his taxi certificate
was granted), Mr Dargan was not able to engage in regular paid work
for which he was "reasonably fitted by education, training
and experience" and was therefore totally and permanently
He ordered Mr Dargan to be paid the amount due to him under the
policy, together with interest.
Hannover appealed, contending that it was incorrect to conclude
that Mr Dargan was not fit to carry out the work of a taxi
The appeal was allowed. The purpose of the policy was to provide
benefits for total and permanent disablement not partial
The requirement for total and permanent disablement meant an
inability to engage in regular paid work for which the claimant was
reasonably fitted by education, training or experience.
The fact that he had previously worked full time did not mean that
he was not reasonably fit for part-time work.
Mr Dargan was an experienced truck driver who was familiar with
the rules of the road and the demands of driving commercial
vehicles. He was able to obtain a taxi certificate without
undertaking any tests and was able comfortably to pass the test
required as a condition of maintaining the certificate. He was able
to work regularly on a part-time basis and was therefore capable of
regular paid work. There was nothing to suggest that he would not
have been capable of performing that work at the time of the
permanent disablement assessment.
Although the question of whether a person is reasonably fit for
a particular type of work will depend on the particular facts, the
significance of Mr Dargan's case is that a person who is
capable of undertaking regular part-time work is unlikely to be
regarded as totally incapacitated. Furthermore, part-time work
utilising some of the skills and experience gained from previous
employment is likely to be considered work for which the person is
"reasonably fitted by education, training and
As well as being relevant to life policy claims, the decision is
worth bearing in mind in the context of workers' compensation
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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