Are subsequent health conditions compensable in workers compensation claims?

Subsequent health conditions

When a worker suffers an injury at work, it is expected that the workers compensation insurer will step in to assist with payments of weekly benefits and treatment expenses. These statutory benefits are paid in respect of the injuries arising from the workplace accident.

What happens when a worker dies after the workplace accident, but not as a result of the primary injuries sustained in the accident? This was the subject of a recent Workers Compensation Commission decision in the matter of Barbosa v Rio Form Work Pty Ltd [2020] NSWWCC 17.

The late Mr Barbosa injured his lower back during his employment in 2003. He underwent lower back surgery in December 2003. Further surgery was recommended by the surgeon. The insurer denied paying for this second surgery. The worker went through a pain management program and injections to better manage his injuries, but it did not work. During this period, the worker was unable to move around and started to gain weight and suffer even more as a result of the weight gain.

By November 2010, Mr Barbosa sought treatment from a cardiologist as he was having chest pain. By then, the cardiologist noted Mr Barbosa was at an increased risk of cardiovascular problems because of diabetes, increased weight and high blood pressure.

Before he passed away, the worker saw a neurologist, who was of the opinion that the lack of exercise and increased eating contributed to the development of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Regrettably, Mr Barbosa passed away on 3 May 2012, after suffering a stroke.

The insurer denied the claim. The Arbitrator who heard the matter, accepted that the weight gain was caused by the lower back injury, as it was clear from the medical evidence that Mr Barbosa had an increase in weight and that this weight gain predisposed him to having a stroke. The Arbitrator made orders awarding Mr Barbosa’s widow a lump sum in the sum of $481,950 for her husband’s death, and awarded weekly compensation payments to their daughter.

If you have developed medical conditions following a workplace injury, or, if you have recently lost a loved one as a result of a heart attack, stroke or other (physical / psychiatric) conditions following a workplace injury, call your specialist workers compensation lawyers at Lionheart Lawyers for friendly advice on 9299 0112.

Important Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of general nature only and is based on the law as of the date of publication. It is not, nor is intended to be legal advice. If you require further information on the content of this publication, please contact our office on 9299 0112.