Can substance abuse, supposedly brought about by serious injuries sustained in a workplace accident more than a decade ago, still be enough grounds for an additional workers’ compensation claim? A ruling on one such case by the Federal Court of Australia seems to suggest that it could be.
Appeal for additional workers’ comp
The court has ordered the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to reconsider the case of a former Telstra Corporation Ltd worker who suffered serious spine, knee, and shoulder injuries at work after a table on which he was leaning collapsed in September 2001.
The worker was initially awarded workers’ compensation after the accident, but was retrenched in 2003. Telstra also rejected the worker’s claim for additional workers’ compensation in 2010, saying the depression, emotional stress, and physical stress he was suffering was caused by substance abuse, not the work-related accident itself.
However, the worker said that if the AAT learns he’s a substance abuser, then it should discover that he is actually taking prescription pain killers to treat the injuries he sustained at work. He also argued that when the AAT assessed if his employment caused his substance abuse problem, the Tribunal applied the incorrect standard of causation. According to the Court, instead of applying the more lenient but already repealed “material degree” test to the case, the AAT applied the “significant degree” test, which the Court considers wrong.
For the full ruling, click here.