April 22, 2022

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission – QIRC – has validated a worker’s application for compensation lodged 17 months after the date she was handed a GP medical certificate for the injury.

Chantal Nicholson started work in the anatomy department of the University of Queensland in September 2016.

In August 2020 she filed an application for workers’ compensation for psychological injuries, specifically ‘work related stress/adjustment disorder’ for which she first sought medical treatment in March 2019.

The University – a Self Insurer – rejected her application on the basis that s 131 of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (‘WCRA’) requires an application for workers’ compensation to be lodged within 6 months “after the entitlement to compensation for the injury arises”.

On review, the regulator upheld Nicholson’s contention that her first consultation for her compensable injury did not in fact occur until March 2020 notwithstanding she saw GP San San Oo at the Oxley Family Medical Centre in March 2019 for work-induced stress and anxiety.

UQ appealed that ruling to QIRC where Nicholson maintained her argument that she was not made aware in the consultation in March 2019 – because it was brief, no diagnosis was given, no treatment was recommended and she was only given a generic certificate for one day off work – that she had suffered a compensable work related injury.

Vice President Daniel O’Connor agreed that in order for a doctor to assess such an injury, “there must be evidence of some evaluation, ie an expression of opinion that the injury arose out of the employment”.

“I remain unconvinced that it has been demonstrated that a conclusion or opinion that Ms Nicholson has suffered an injury within the meaning of the WCRA was either formed or communicated to her in March 2019,” he ruled.

He also noted that her symptoms of psychological or psychiatric injury as at March 2020 were vastly different to those she was experiencing in March 2019.

Having been satisfied on those grounds that Ms Nicholson’s failure to give the notice within 6 months was reasonable, he ruled that the time limit as provided for in s 131(1) of the Act should be waived.

“It was in March 2020 that Ms Nicholson became incapacitated to work,” the Deputy president concluded in ordering that the Regulator’s decision to allow the application for workers’ compensation as one for acceptance, should be confirmed.

The University of Queensland v Workers’ Compensation Regulator [2022] QIRC 131 O’Connor VP, 6 April 2022

Categories: workers compensation appeal

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