Crystal clear: ‘recurrence’ v continuation of symptoms from a prior claim?

22 April 2024

The Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal makes the operation of s80A crystal clear: a continuation of symptoms from previously accepted injuries within the workplace is not always a recurrence.

In issue

  • The main issue for determination was whether the Claim was a fresh claim where the Tribunal had jurisdiction to make a determination under s81A of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (the Act) or a continuation of an earlier claim for compensation.

The background

The worker made a claim for worker's compensation on 7 November 2023 after suffering pain in their groin area as a result of working in a glass manufacturing plant. The worker saw their doctor, who provided a medical certificate which certified the worker as fit for light duties due to a ‘recurrence’ of a previous injury. The worker suffered from a history of groin pain and suffered the original injury in 2019 for which a claim was made and accepted by the employer.

Following this original claim, the worker had bilateral hernia surgery. He suffered post operative pain which Dr Dale diagnosed as a disease process unrelated to work.

The employer submitted that the Claim should be viewed as a recurrence of a previous injury and therefore should be treated as a new injury as per the definition under the Act. The worker submitted that he had not suffered a new injury and his current condition resulted from the original injury and the surgery he underwent with respect to those hernias. This was supported by a CT scan done in September 2023 which revealed umbilical hernia but no recurrent inguinal hernia.

The decision at trial

Deputy President Clues accepted Dr Dale’s opinion the worker was suffering post-surgery hernia pain, and the November 2023 claim was made because the worker’s post-surgery pain intensified. The Tribunal found no evidence the worker suffered a separate and distinct injury at work. This was despite the GP’s description of a ‘recurrence’ used on the medical certificate which the Tribunal considered was used in the context of the already accepted claim.

Deputy President Clues held that the September/November 2023 claim for compensation was not a fresh claim for compensation in respect of an injury for which he had not previously made a claim. As a result, the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to make a determination on liability under s81A.

Implications for you

The classification of the injury by the medical practitioner issuing the worker's compensation certificate as a recurrence did not necessarily dictate this was a fresh injury within the meaning ascribed to recurrence under s80A of the Act. It is important to consider the injury in context; did the ‘new’ condition arise out of the suffering of the same injury?

Glass Supplies Pty Ltd v M [2023] TASCAT 241

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