Construction worker John suffered an injury to his left shoulder whilst at work. Due to the ongoing symptoms he was experiencing, over time John become reliant on his right shoulder to compensate for his injured left shoulder. As a result of his overreliance on his right shoulder, John then began to experience symptoms in his right shoulder including pain and loss of range of movement.
The question is then – could John make a claim for a consequential injury to his right shoulder? This article explores consequential injuries, what they are and possible workers compensation rights and entitlements for these injuries.
What is a consequential injury ?
A consequential injury is one in which an initial work related injury has materially contributed to another injury. Injured workers will need to be able to demonstrate that there is a causal relationship between their initial work related injury and the consequential injury they have subsequently sustained. This causal relationship will need to be supported by medical evidence.
In John's case, subject to supportive medical evidence, he would be considered to have sustained a consequential injury as there is a causal relationship between his initial work related left shoulder injury and the consequential right shoulder injury as he became reliant on his right shoulder to compensate for the ongoing symptoms in his left shoulder.
With a consequential injury, there is no requirement that the injury is related to employment, as is the requirement for an initial work injury. Rather, it is a requirement that it can be demonstrated that the consequential injury would not have occurred if the worker was not already injured.
What possible workers compensation rights and entitlements do injured workers have if they have sustained a consequential injury?
There are various rights and entitlements injured workers may be entitled to for consequential injuries in accordance with the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW). These include weekly payments and medical expenses.
Injured workers can also make a claim for lump sum compensation for permanent impairment, however only in certain circumstances.
In accordance with the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW), if an injured worker sustained a physical initial injury and they have developed a consequential injury which is also a physical injury, the injured worker will be able to make a lump sum compensation claim for both injuries if it can be demonstrated that there is a causal relationship between the initial and consequential injuries.
However, if an injured worker sustained a physical initial injury and they have developed a consequential injury which is a psychological injury, unfortunately in accordance with the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW), the worker is not entitled to make a claim for lump sum compensation for permanent impairment for the consequential psychological injury.
I am an injured worker and I believe I have sustained a consequential injury, what should I do?
You should firstly seek medical advice from your treating doctor as soon as you become aware of the initial symptoms of your consequential injury. It is important to report your symptoms to your treating doctor without delay as it will allow for the medical records to reflect your symptoms. This may be required to demonstrate the causal relationship between your initial work related injury and the consequential injury.
If your treating doctor believes that the injury is consequential to your initial work related injury, you should advise the insurer and use the claim number from your initial injury to make any claims for weekly payments and medical expenses for your consequential injury.
If the insurer has declined liability for my consequential injury, what should I do?
Should the insurer decline liability for a consequential injury, injured workers should seek legal advice and assistance as medical evidence will need to be obtained to support the causal relationship between the initial injury and the consequential injury.
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.