Sadly, Louis van Assen passed away on the 9th of April 2013 after being ill for quite some time.

In a lighter vein

Injuries on duty are no laughing matter, the consequences are often serious. However, there are two situations which can be humorous.  The first is the situation where the employee is attempting to convince the Commissioner that the injury or alleged injury was sustained at work and thus an injury that he should be compensated for.  The stories that you get to read in letters are not only humorous but also numerous.  Talk about originality and you find it among these versions.  I cannot be too specific because some of these ingenious people may be still alive and I do not want to land in gaol under the slow approaching Act; at the moment a Bill.

EMPLOYERS

Let me give an example that landed up in the then Supreme Court so that you cannot say that I am sucking this out of my thumb.  A driver of the employer’s bakkie was involved in an accident and the vehicle was damaged. The owner was not amused. In fact, he was so overcome by anger than the employee was injured far more from the employer's assault than he was in the crash. What then follows reads like a novel from the legal environment:

  • The employer reports the “accident” to the CC as required by law and reports that the employee was busy replacing a flat tyre when the jack came unstuck and the vehicle fell on the employee.  The CC’s office was satisfied that this constituted an accident as defined by the Act and went ahead and paid the medical costs for the “injuries” that the employee has sustained;
  • When the employee had recovered from his injuries, he instituted a common law claim against the employer for common law damages; something as you will know is not paid by the Compensation Fund.  The employer responded by claiming that the employee is not allowed to sue him under the Act as it is specifically forbidden by law. 
  • The employer then making a u-turn said that the CC has accepted the claim and the result is that he cannot be held liable for damages.  The fact that the claim was paid on fraudulent information apparently escaped the employer;
  • The judge gave the employer’s argument the mortal shot and decided that the true facts do not constitute a claim as defined in the Act and that the employer can, therefore, not hide behind the protection of the legislation.  He is liable to pay common law damages to the employee which was subsequently awarded; 
  • However, this is not the end of the story.  The CC had paid a claim based on fraudulent information. The judge subsequently ruled that injuries sustained by the employee as a result of the assault cannot be regarded as an “accident” with the result that the CC wasn’t liable for the costs.  The employer must, therefore, refund the CC for the costs incorrectly incurred.

I think you will agree that the employer’s indiscretion cost him a lot of money.  Whether he was prosecuted for supplying false information I do not know but would not be surprised if it was the case.  ( See Kau v Fourie 1971(3) SA 623)

EMPLOYEES

Employees faking injuries on duty are numerous and something that people dealing with claims are constantly on the lookout for.  One Monday morning I was present when the injured reported at the medical station at one of the biggest RSA firms.  A youngster was sitting in the waiting room with a sore leg.  One of his colleagues passed through and congratulated the patient on his brilliant cricket match on the Sunday and added that it was such a pity that he had injured his leg whilst batting.  Have you ever seen someone doing a disappearing act?  This was one of the best that I have ever witnessed.  To avoid people recognising themselves, I will rather not give more examples.  What I can say is that some patterns exist in types of injuries which can be associated with certain events.  Two that I can think of are back injuries and PTS.

INTERNATIONAL

I said at the beginning of the column that injuries are not a laughing matter.  You would, however, be surprised to see how many websites there are covering this subject.  To rephrase, it is often reported under the heading “Weird Workers’ Compensation Claims” such as on FUNNY2.Com.  I will only quote a few; you can view the rest personally:

  • “My head injuries have created a permanent increase in libido which has lead to two affairs and has ruined my marriage”
  • “I was working on my job and got a pain at the end of the week”
  • “That night I did something that I shouldn’t-a done and now my back hurts”
  • “I was removing a blouse for a customer at which time I injured my back”
  • “Falling off a truck I dislocated my pelvis and other male organs”
  • “The doctor gave me a disease for my occupation and said I must change jobs”

That is all I can fit into the space. All I can say is that if you think you have seen weird claims, think again.

Till next month