When acting for Workers’ Compensation Insurers, it is not unusual for Mullins Lawyers to attend the employer’s premises to investigate first-hand if and how an injurious incident occurred.
It is also not unusual for Claimants to describe a version of the event causing injury that the employer disputes.
On those occasions, it can be beneficial for one of our lawyers to attend the employer’s premises and examine the system of work. Sometimes we even invite the Claimant and their solicitors to attend to clarify the Claimant’s version and demonstrate to the employer how an incident occurred. Sometimes we can demonstrate to the Claimant and their solicitors that the incident could not have occurred in the manner described.
Generally speaking, it is beneficial for all parties to clarify and reconcile disputed versions at an early stage, rather than at a later stage, when costs may have been unnecessarily incurred.
Often, there is a “middle ground” between the injured Claimant’s version and the employer’s understanding of the system of work, which becomes evident at a site inspection. Sometimes the catalyst for an agreement between the parties can be as simple as a realisation that incorrect terminology has been used.
We are also acutely aware that in “system of work” cases, how something “should” happen is not always how something “does” happen, and exceptions as well as the rules must be understood to properly investigate claims.
It is also important to accept that a court must make its decision on evidence relevant to the specific incident, rather than general comments of what “should” or “usually” happens. It is often the unanticipated but still foreseeable actions that lead to a breakdown in a safe system of work and exposes workers to risk of injury.
While site inspections may identify lapses in systems of work, that identification then allows the systems to be strengthened to avoid future risk of injury.