Statistics only tell a small part of the story
If there is anything to be positive about in this topic, it is that the records show a continued decline in the rate of fatalities in the workplace.
The rate of deaths per 10,000 has decreased by 57% between 2007 and 2021 in Australia. In pure number terms, the records show 169 deaths in 2021, of which 163 were male. This very high percentage of deaths becomes clearer when we find that 64 were caused by vehicle collisions, 40 from moving or falling objects, and 19 by falls from a height.
These figures paint a general picture of active physical work, though of course there were various other causes listed as well.
What the numbers do not describe, is the tragedy and grief of every single occurrence – tragedy for the person involved, ongoing sadness and grief for the grieving loved ones.
While a lost loved one cannot be brought back, financial recompense may at least go some way to easing the daily burden.
It’s largely in the Act
The Workers Compensation Act 1987 provides the basis for compensation claims against workplace injury and death.
Sections 4 and 9A make for interesting reading and raise issues of cause and effect. Is it enough to simply be at the workplace or is it necessary to prove that the employment was a ‘substantial contributing factor’?
Some workplace deaths are fairly clear cut, others far less so. An interesting case in 2021 found that an employee who had travelled to the USA on a work-related trip, who contracted COVID and subsequently died, was entitled to compensation. The best tip we can give is to obtain sound legal advice from a law firm with skill and experience in this potentially complex area of law.
As with workplace injuries, the provision of complete documentary evidence of the circumstances, witness reports, police reports, medical and coronial records will all go to assisting the case. Because the claimants will need to prove dependency, documents such as marriage certificate, joint bank account statements, Will, and grant of probate will be needed. Be guided by your lawyer.
What compensation is available?
Should a death claim for compensation be approved, both lump sum and weekly payments may be applicable as follows:
- lump sum payment – $871,200 as of 1 October 2022
- weekly payments of $156 for each dependent child up to the age of 16, or 21 if they are in full time education
- reasonable funeral expenses
Note that the lump sum and weekly benefits figures are indexed twice per year on 1 April and 1 October.
‘Reasonable funeral expenses’ is described by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) as:
- funeral director’s professional fees
- cost of a funeral service
- mourning car
- cemetery site
- newspaper notice
- death certificate
While financial payments may provide substantial relief to some of the immediate practical needs, loved ones will be dealing with significant grief. The loss of a loved one is extremely sad at any time, but to lose someone prematurely in a workplace environment will undoubtedly present even greater emotional stress. Insurers also provide access to grief counseling services.
Owen Hodge Lawyers do not dwell on statistics, we deal with real people, often in traumatic circumstances, who need uncomplicated quality advice to smooth the path.