The WorkCover Corporation has just made an important change to
their policy on how contested death claims are to be resolved.
Section 44 of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986
allows a dependent spouse or domestic partner to claim a lump sum
payment of compensation where a worker dies as a result of a
compensable disability. Dependent spouses, domestic partners and
dependent children of deceased workers are also entitled to claim
weekly income maintenance payments based on the extent of their
financial dependency on the deceased worker as at the worker's
date of death. Previously, where the Corporation rejected a claim
under Section 44, the policy of the WorkCover Corporation on
litigating the dispute was an all or nothing policy, the
Corporation being of the view that dependents should either get the
entire benefit available to them under the law or nothing which
effectively forced all dependents to run their matters to a
Judicial Hearing at great cost and emotional stress in
circumstances where the dependents were already grieving for their
lost loved ones.
After some lobbying by the SA Workers Compensation Tribunal who
were concerned that the relatives of deceased workers were
effectively persons under disability under the law, the Board of
the WorkCover Corporation met and decided to give their claims
agent Employers Mutual Limted the discretion to make offers of
settlement and compromise Section 44 disputes where appropriate
based on their assessment of the respective risks of the parties in
the litigation. Hence, dependent relatives will no longer be forced
in every case to a Judicial Hearing where their claim is rejected.
As the SA Workers Compensation Tribunal regards relatives in these
circumstances as persons under disability and any settlement is an
agreement to modify or restrict the operation of the legislation,
all settlements will have to be approved by a Presidential Member
of the SA Workers Compensation Tribunal.
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