On 24 September 2015, the Workers’ Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (Qld) (Bill) received assent.
The Bill amended the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) (Act). The Act (as amended) provides that:
- Workers injured during the period 15 October 2013 to 30 January 2015 and assessed with a Degree of Permanent Impairment (DPI) of 5% (threshold) or less, will be paid ‘additional lump sum compensation’ to compensate them for the fact that they cannot claim common law damages against their employer.
- From 31 January 2015 onwards, workers with an accepted claim for compensation under the Act will be able to seek common law damages against their employer, without the need to exceed the threshold.
The amendments will be welcomed by respondents to some claims regulated by the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (Qld) (PIPA) and the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 (Qld)(MAIA). It was a consequence of changes to workers’ compensation laws passed in 2013, that respondents to claims could not seek contribution from employers on a joint tortfeasor basis where workers suffered an injury with a DPI of 5% or less: Bonser v Melcanais  QCA 13.
This resulted in general insurers, respondents to PIPA claims and compulsory third party insurers, having to pay 100% of the damages payable to workers in what were otherwise, master/servant claims. This anomaly caused particular problems for organisations with complex company structures. For claims arising out of incidents on or after 31 January 2015, these respondents will now be able to join an employer as a party to a claim in accordance with the Law Reform Act 1995 (Qld) and the regulating legislation.
The changes do not address the Supreme Court decision of Byrne v People Resourcing (Qld) Pty Ltd & Ors  QSC 269. A respondent with a contractual indemnity in its favour (from an employer) can seek to enforce that indemnity against an employer, WorkCover or a self-insurer.
How to respond
We recommend that insurers and PIPA respondents conduct a review of their current Queensland claims to consider potential claims for contribution or indemnity in contract or tort.