We recently acted for a Miner, who was injured in an underground coal mine in Central Queensland. John (not his real name) was driving a loader in the mine and hit a pothole, which was caused by water leaking from a tank. The loader which John was driving, has a seat which is highly sprung in order to allegedly make the drivers’ ride more comfortable.
However, when John hit the pothole, the seat sprung up so much that it forced his head into the ceiling of the cabin in which he was seated. He immediately felt neck pain and spoke to his supervisor. His supervisor said to go out of the mine, have a rest for the evening and see how he felt. He did that and then went to his next shift after taking a number of painkillers. He was still sore, but was due to have a week off due to his roster.
John then had a week off and then returned to work. During the first shift back he was still in pain from his neck. He told his supervisor of this and his supervisor told him to have a week’s holiday on full pay and come back after that. John asked his supervisor if he should put in an Incident Report and the supervisor said no.
When John returned to work, he was placed in a position which was less aggravating to his neck, and John being a stoic worker continued to work, taking painkillers regularly in order to deal with the pain in his neck. He did actually think it was getting better until some seven months later when he had two weeks of intense neck pain and that is when he saw a doctor. Unfortunately, all the doctors reported in their notes that John had neck pain for the last “two weeks” this was recorded in doctors’ notes and physiotherapists’ notes. John, who was not a good communicator, had in fact said that he had the incident some seven months ago but the neck pain had become very severe in the last two weeks.
This claim ran for some five years, due to the fact that there was lots of argument as to whether the incident actually happened. After many years of investigations of documents and taking statements from fellow workers, we believed we were able to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the incident had actually occurred. The matter did settle at a settlement conference, however, for about half of what John’s case was probably worth due to the fact that there would have been doubt as to whether John could convince a Judge, at trial, as to whether the incident actually occurred. Thus the award of damages was discounted for this contingency.
Had John insisted that his supervisor file an Incident Report on the day or the day after the incident actually happened, all of this would have been avoided and John’s claim would have settled many years before and for a much larger amount. The moral of the story is, if you have an incident, no matter how minor, make sure it is reported and an Incident Report completed.
For more information, please read more about our workplace compensation page.