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  • A recent Presidential decision of the Workers Compensation Commission has determined that a knee replacement constitutes an ‘artificial aid’ for the purposes of the exceptions within s 59A of the Workers Compensation Act, meaning that no limits will apply in relation to such medical procedures.
  • In Pacific National Pty Ltd v Baldacchino the Commission reviewed principles of statutory interpretation and relied upon authority of the Court of Appeal from 1979 in its interpretation of a similar phrase within the 1926 legislation.
  • The decision serves to expand rights of injured workers in relation to claims for medical treatment expenses, particularly retired workers who would otherwise be restricted by the time limits imposed following the 2012 amendments to the Act.

The 2012 amendments to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) (‘the Act’) controversially placed significant time limitations upon claims for a range of statutory benefits, notably including claims for medical treatment expenses and weekly payments in relation to wage loss. Prior to these amendments injured workers were free to make claims for medical treatment for an injury at any stage in their lifetime. However, the amending legislation imposed strict time limits with the exception of workers deemed to be in the most seriously injured category. Following a parliamentary inquiry, further amending legislation in 2015 introduced a number of exceptions to such time limits, including treatment for the provision of, amongst other matters, ‘artificial aids’, leaving the question open as to what type of treatment falls within the ambit of such a phrase.

Injuries to joints such as knees and hips often put in place a degenerative process that may lead to the need for very expensive joint replacement procedures, often decades after the original injury. By this time, the time limits imposed by the legislation may preclude a worker from claiming such costs. However, a recent Presidential decision in Pacific National Pty Ltd v Baldacchino [2018] NSWWCCPD 12, determined that a knee replacement procedure does constitute the provision of an ‘artificial aid’, thereby permitting injured workers to pursue claims for the costs of such procedures unrestricted by time.

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