Over the years, I have acted for many clients who have worked in heavy manual occupations such as the coal mining, meat and construction industries.
Given the physical nature of this work, it is not surprising that many of these workers have previously had worker’s compensation claims or pursued damages claims for those earlier injuries, particularly where the injury has resulted in permanent impairment.
During our first meeting, I am often asked by those clients if the earlier injury will complicate their current claim or affect the amount of their payout.
If the earlier claim is still in time (less than 3 years old) it may still be possible to pursue a damages claim for the earlier accident too. However, if three years has elapsed, the earlier injury is out of time.
The mere fact that a person has previously been injured, even if it is a relatively serious injury, does not prevent that person from pursuing damages for later injuries.
The real issue is whether or not the earlier injury was ever going to affect the person’s earning capacity. An important issue for the Court to determine is the effect of the earlier injury on the person’s capacity to earn an income.
This is usually one of the major issues in contest when matters go to Court for determination.
If the earlier injury was going to impact on the person’s ability to work or carry out certain duties, then the Court will take that into account when assessing your damages.
Courts are often guided by the opinion of medical experts who examined the claimant and considered the effects of the current and earlier injuries.
Other relevant factors include the amount of sick leave taken between events, whether there has been intervening medical treatment or rehabilitation and the person’s own evidence about the effect of the earlier injury.
It is important that your solicitor investigates these issues properly to ensure that you still have a worthwhile claim, despite your earlier injury.