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Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for many law firms (particularly those who work in compensation law!) with a significant spike in serious accidents, road fatalities, insurance disputes, work injuries, Christmas party issues, and other unexpected catastrophes. The holiday season also places enormous pressure on our healthcare, transport, and first responder services. During the holidays and all throughout January, people frequently need urgent access to expert compensation lawyers who are ready and available to assist during their time of crisis, explains Firm Partner and QLS Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law Jeremy Roche.

Introduction

Many professional services close throughout December and January to enjoy a much-needed rest and recovery time. At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, however, this is one of the busiest times of year! We always ensure that we have lawyers and staff ready to help. We have a 24/7 phone line that can be called even on public holidays so that if someone is involved in an unexpected or catastrophic accident or event, we can provide immediate guidance and help them understand their legal options. All throughout the holiday season, we continue to field calls and enquiries from those in need and provide assistance in any way we can.

When it comes to injuries and accidents, the Christmas “silly season” presents many hazards that can cause havoc with your holiday plans. From congested roads to people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to overzealous behaviour at a Christmas party, to serious work or road injuries, we see it all! Importantly, we are here and available to help.

Christmas Work Parties – celebrate and stay safe!

Christmas parties provide a great opportunity to socialise with colleagues and reflect on the year that was. Although the occasion calls for celebration, it is important to remember that employers and employees continue to have rights and responsibilities beyond the office or work site.

At work parties or events, employers have the same responsibility to their employees to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of injury to their employees as they would in the usual workplace. Employers should consider their work parties (irrespective of the venue) to be an extension of their workplace.  It is not uncommon for employees to take full advantage of what is on offer at a Christmas party, and perhaps overindulge and then suffer an injury via any manner of unexpected events, from dancing on tables, swinging on chandeliers, slipping on spilled drinks, dancing mishaps, fist fighting, drink driving, tripping and falling, bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, or various other misadventures.  

Employees should understand that they also must take reasonable steps to ensure their own safety.

In Queensland, most workers who suffer injury in a motor vehicle accident whilst travelling to or from their work Christmas party will be entitled to lodge a workers’ compensation ‘journey claim’.  Workers’ compensation entitles the worker to “statutory benefits” via the “no fault” scheme, providing the worker with weekly income payments and medical treatment expenses while they recover from their injury. This does not involve any blame on the part of the employer unless the employer caused their accident.

If another road user caused the motor vehicle accident, the worker may also have a CTP claim against the insurer of the negligent or at-fault driver that caused the accident. If a CTP claim is made, the amounts paid by the workers’ compensation insurer will ultimately be refunded as the worker will receive compensation via the CTP scheme.

In most cases, the work Christmas party sees people behave and drink responsibly. However, our compensation lawyers are routinely surprised by the many weird and wonderful ways people injure themselves at these celebrations each year!

Traffic accidents

Across southeast Queensland and Northern NSW (and particularly on the M1) traffic congestion is rife, and accidents are regrettably frequent throughout the year. Unfortunately, the festive season usually makes a bad situation worse. Although school’s out and many workplaces take a much-needed break, traffic congestion is an issue with interstate visitors travelling by road, and more people out and about enjoying their time off. In addition, the predicted wet weather and potential flooding that often strikes in summer will likely contribute to congestion and road accidents over the Christmas break. 

Sadly, the holiday season normally brings a lamentable increase in road fatalities and serious accidents.  The 2021 year was a horror season for road fatalities, with approximately 270 road deaths recorded in Queensland (the highest road toll in 5 years) and about 260 road deaths recorded in New South Wales.  So far in 2022, the statistics are on track for a similarly catastrophic road toll with 92 road fatalities recoded across Australia during November alone.  Fatalities from motorcycle accidents are particularly frequent and account for a high percentage of the road toll each year. We deal with many motorcycle fatalities and catastrophic injury claims for motorcyclists injured on the Gold Coast (or hinterland) and northern NSW.

Given that December is the season to be jolly, unfortunately some of the habits that come with this time of year contribute to road accidents. This includes people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, people speeding, driving tired, driving in bad weather or flooding, and people failing to wear seatbelts or motorcycle helmets. One of the biggest contributors to road accidents is people getting distracted whilst driving, whether using their mobile phone, or by passengers in the vehicle.

Anyone who suffers severe injuries in a motor vehicle accident over the holiday season will likely spend the Christmas break in hospital, coming to terms with their injuries.

When someone suffers a catastrophic injury, there can be a lot of uncertainty as people’s lives are turned upside down. It is extremely stressful, particularly when people are grappling with the notion that they are supposed to return to work in the new year but may be unable to do so. For anyone injured in a significant car accident, their injuries usually challenge their capacity to financially support themselves and their family; something that may already be under significant pressure with the rising cost of living!

We understand that for anyone in this scenario, having access to a compensation lawyer to discuss the matter and their options can help them deal with the unexpected situation they have found themselves in.  

For this reason, our compensation lawyers are available 24/7 for any urgent advice needed and offer free no obligation consultations to help those in need.

Work related accidents and injuries

Christmas time is not necessarily a summer holiday for all workers. Many industries will be working to capacity during this time, including construction workers, pool technicians, plumbers, electricians, air conditioning technicians, airport workers, and hospitality and tourism staff.  Work accidents are regrettably common whenever workers are under pressure, working at a fast pace, or when the workload is exceptionally busy. 

Delivery services are one of the main areas finding it hard – if not impossible – to cope with the current increased demand.  In a post pandemic world, there has been a dramatic increase in online shopping and delivery services.

Being overworked and suffering burnout is a risk as couriers work longer shifts and weekends try to deliver as many parcels as possible. Not to mention the increased risk of being involved in a traffic accident by being on the road during peak times and potentially driving fatigued.

Unfortunately, the health and aged care sectors are also under immense pressure and preparing for the ongoing staffing crisis during December and January. With another COVID wave hitting just before Christmas, in addition to the holiday season, the demand may completely cripple the system with workers bearing the brunt of it.

Then there are the hospital workers, medical professionals and first responders who have had a difficult year dealing with staff shortages, and the ongoing spread of COVID-19. There have been numerous reports of sick people getting turned away at hospitals across Australia which is a sign of just how bad the crisis is, and staff burning out.

Workers need to understand that whether they suffer a physical or psychological injury or illness as a result of their work, support is available, and they are entitled to claim workers’ compensation to access the treatment and compensation needed.

These matters can be very complex, and it is important to engage a suitably qualified compensation lawyer at the earliest opportunity to have your case assessed and find out the steps to take to make your claim.  

How can Attwood Marshall Lawyers help?

If there is something urgent that you need assistance with, Attwood Marshall Lawyers will be open over the Christmas period. We have a 24/7 phone line that you can call, or email us; if your matter is urgent, someone will get back to you even on a public holiday.

There aren’t many law firms on the Gold Coast or Brisbane that offer that service, but we understand that sometimes things happen urgently and unexpectantly.

Our Robina Town Centre office is also open for your convenience on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings. You can make an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers any time by calling 1800 621 071 or booking online. If you are faced with any of these issues unexpectedly, know that there is still someone there to help.

Read more:

Nominal Defendant Claims – what to do if you are injured as a result of the negligent driving of an unidentified and/or unregistered vehicle

Top 6 reasons why WorkCover Queensland rejects claims and how to Review the decision

Queensland Worker’s Compensation case sets precedent for workplace psychological claims arising from understaffing and ‘performance management’

Working from home and WorkCover Compensation Claims: Am I still covered?

 
 
 

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Jeremy Roche - Partner - Compensation Law

Jeremy Roche

Partner
Compensation Law

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Disclaimer
The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

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