A case of the Swine Flu – Workers Compensation Awarded – By Chris Clarke – Partner
Vicki Everingham was a member of staff who worked for Geoff Provest, the Local State Member of Parliament. On the 6.8.09 Vicki Everingham attended a work trip to Sydney to attend Matthew Talbot Hostel and also to Parliament House for a meeting with people in Sydney concerning a homeless project in the Tweed. She attended with Geoff Provest and with other members from the local community.
Upon her return from Sydney Vicki became increasingly sick with a respiratory infection. She was initially admitted to Murwillumbah Hospital then John Flynn Hospital then Prince Charles Hospital. All up she was in hospital for over 4 months and put on a ventilator for a period with multiple other infections.
Subsequently in Brisbane it was diagnosed that she was suffering from H1N1 infection, a swine flu infection which was isolated to the work trip to Sydney. The insurance company denied liability on the basis that the timing of the infection was outside World Health Organisation Guidelines, notwithstanding the fact that 3 of the other people on the trip to Sydney became sick and one person subsequently was pathology tested positive for HIN1 swine flu.
The insurer denied liability based on WHO Guidelines which shows the time of infection as outside the trip to Sydney. Attwood Marshall obtained expert evidence from a respiratory physician and from Professor Dominic Dwyer who was an expert in infectious diseases linking the time of the infection to the work trip to Sydney to the 6.8.09.
Vicki has developed pulmonary fibrosis and is reliant on oxygen to get by during the day. Vicki has been advised that she will need a lung transplant in a few years once the pulmonary fibrosis condition deteriorates.
Vicki is almost certainly totally incapacitated for all forms of work for the rest of her working life at the age of 54 and therefore it was of crucial importance that Vicki was to win her case to provide her with some economic stability in the future.
Approximately a week before the matter was to be heard in the Commission the insurer withdrew their defence and accepted that Vicki had a valid work related injury which was in the form of swine flu contracted on a work related visit to Sydney in August 2009. Vicki will be paid lump sums for 40% whole person impairment and an amount for pain and suffering.
As far as our research is concerned this is the first case in Australia of a detected swine flu infection directly related to exposure to swine flu during the course of employment. We believe that the insurer did not want to run the case on the basis that the case may set a precedent for future swine flu cases for people who contract swine flu during the course of employment. It is our strong belief that if the case did run for a hearing before an arbitrator that there was cogent and compelling evidence to indicate that the contraction of swine flu arose in or out of the course of employment.
Vicki will now receive lump sums in excess of $125,000 for the impairment and pain and suffering that she has been through, weekly payments of worker’s compensation back dated to August 2009, past medical expenses totalling in the vicinity of $70,000 and weekly payments of worker’s compensation until she reaches 66 years of age. The insurer will also meet all of her medical expenses and travel expenses and pharmaceutical expenses and oxygen expenses for the rest of her life.
The case gives significant relief to the applicant who otherwise would have had a devastating economic and medical future without the help of coverage under the worker’s compensation system.
We are happy to answer any questions in relation to any possible claims that you might have. We accept these claims on a “no win no fee” basis and do not charge for the initial consultation.
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