WCRA: 5% thresholds, restructuring & fraud amendments

I refer to my earlier post regarding the parliamentary inquiry into the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme and in particular access to common law damages. The government’s tabled response goes far beyond the recommendations.

On Tuesday 15/10/20013, contrary to the above report and recommendations amending legislation was introduced to parliament with an anticipated date of the amendments will be passed by as early as 18/10/2013.

These represent significant changes, including:

  • a 5% threshold to access common law damages with immediate effect from the date of introduction to parliament;
  • amendments to negate the decision in Cameron v Foster for hybrid gratuitous and paid services;
  • new definitions including of degree of permanent impairment as opposed to the previous provision;
  • increased onus of proof for psychiatric injuries of “major significant contributing factor”;
  • significant restructuring of WorkCover & Q-COMP, with Q-COMP to be absorbed into the Department of Justice from the date of assent;
  • power for employers to request disclosure of pre-existing injuries which could reasonably be aggravated by work related duties together with loss of compensation or damages for failure to do so or false and misleading information; and
  • increased investigation powers into fraud and penalties.

Both the Queensland Law Society and Bar Association have released media statements querying the haste and necessity for the changes given the outcome of the parliamentary review and process, together with the significant impact on injured workers. The need is also puzzling in light of the recent increase in profit by WorkCover to $517 million as noted in WorkCover’s 2013/2013 annual report, in particular:

In Summary:

  • Operating result for the year is a profit of $517 million
  • WorkCover’s net equity position improved from positive $541 million to positive $1,054 million
  • Net claims incurred decreased from $1,233 million to $1,142 million
  • Premium collected increased from $1,442 million to $1,606 million
  • Investment income increased from $100 million to $301 million
  • Common law payments have decreased from $513 million to $461 million
  • Statutory claims payments have increased from $688 million to $737 million
  • Total gross payments from the scheme remain steady as the increase in stat claims cancels out the decrease in common law claims payments
  • Numbers of statutory claims have decreased from 93 552 to 88 775
  • Numbers of common law claims have remained steady going from 3741 to 3735

Otherwise, I refer you to the Explanatory Notes.

Brisbane Barrister – David Cormack

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