Chainsaws: they’re such efficient machinery – it’s no wonder they are such a popular tool.
But the very reason for their popularity is their capacity to do big jobs; and it’s for that same reason that they can cause severe injuries. Power saws are extremely fast and operate under extreme force. They can do both a lot of good damage (think felling large trees quickly) and a lot of bad damage (think serious injury to limbs or other parts of the body, or even death) in a short amount of time.
If you have suffered injury as a result of using a saw or chainsaw, you may be able to claim compensation. Most chainsaw related injuries occur at home or at work. If it happens at work, you may be able to claim compensation if your workplace failed to provide you with a safe environment.
If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work.
If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.
Example: Mark works in an abattoir.
He uses a hand-held saw to cut bones. His workplace has asked him to work a double shift and he is fatigued. Not only that, they have only just recently employed him and still have not run Mark through their safety protocols.
Mark over-shoots the mark cutting a bone and cuts through his left hand, his thumb and index finger severely lacerated. In emergency, he undergoes surgery where they manage to save his index finger but not his thumb.
In this case, Mark would be eligible to claim compensation because his work has failed to provide a safe system for him. Even though he is an experienced saw-user, the fact that he was fatigued as a result of being put on extended hours, and had not undergone safety training, are significant contributors to his injury as a result of his employer’s negligence.
More Info: See WorkCover claims
Apart from those near-misses every worker can tell you about every now and again, it’s not often that chainsaw-related injuries are minor. Chances are that if you have suffered an injury as a result of a chainsaw accident, you are facing the time and expense of extensive medical care.
General damages can compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.
For example an extreme injury such as traumatic limb amputation is rated up to 100 (the maximum severity) in the case of loss of a dominant limb with a corresponding compensation of up to $366,300[CHECK].. Compare this with a fingertip injury where substantial function of the hand remains- this is rated not more than 5 with a corresponding compensation range of $1,450 to $5,800[CHECK].
To diagnose and treat an injury you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications and wear medical supports or apparatus. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Hospital and surgical costs
You may require surgery as a result of your injury – for example, in the case of severe lacerations, tendon or ligament tears, and partial or full traumatic amputations.
Surgical and hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation if the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitating after a chainsaw-related injury may involve physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
Loss of income and future earning capacity
If you suffer an injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for lost income. If your injury prevents you from working to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity.
Occupations that require manual labour may be difficult or impossible for someone who has suffered a chainsaw-related injury and their capacity to earn income in the future may be reduced. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.
Loss of Superannuation
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Care & Assistance
Your injury may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.
In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.
Professions at risk of chainsaw-related injuries
Professions that require manual labour are the key risk area for chainsaw-related injuries.
Chainsaw injuries are most likely among those working in forestry roles such as logging, felling or tree maintenance roles such as arborists, tree surgeons and gardeners.
Other chainsaw-related injuries may be more likely in workshop-based trades including carpentry and metal work.
Also at risk are construction workers, heavy labourers and industrial workers. Abbatoir and meat workers also use saws – in particular bandsaws – and are at risk of injury.
The range of possible injuries can include:
Any or all the above can also cause acute pain, as well as chronic pain and issues such as arthritis.
In general terms, the settlement amount for a chainsaw-related injury is gauged by comparing what your life was like be the injury and what it is like now, because of the injury. Someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact. The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
What time limits apply to make a claim?
For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation. However, depending on where your injury occurred and who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply. Pre-court procedures specify other time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your rights to claim unless you can convince the court that you had good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to claim. The time limits specified by some pre-court procedures are set out below.
If your injuries were sustained at work: Statutory workers’ compensation claims in Queensland must be filed within 6 months from the date of the accident or the date you become aware of your injury. If you intend to sue your employer for negligence (otherwise known as a common law claim) you must request an assessment of permanent impairment from the workers’ compensation insurer within 2.5 years of the injury.
If your injuries are the subject of a public liability claim: If you are making a claim for personal injuries against an occupier, property owner or public authority, pre-court procedures require you to serve an official Notice of Claim on the party you believe to be at fault within 9 months of the injury, or within 1 month of your consultation with a solicitor in relation to your claim, whichever is first.
If you are under 18 years of age
For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor be they turn 18.
Next steps: what to do if you have suffered a chainsaw injury?
Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available.
The key risk areas for saw and chainsaw use are:
Kickback – the chainsaw encounters an unexpectedly hard surface, the force of which propels the chainsaw back towards its operator.
Circular / skill saws and table saws are common culprits for this. Circular saws – because of their higher blade speed – are responsible for a significant percentage – about 1/3 – of saw injuries.
Pull-in / Pushback: this happens when the chainsaw is either pushed back towards the operator unexpectedly, or pulled away from the operator, causing loss of control. Generally, this happens when the blades encounter an unexpected object or surface type.
Additional hazards (a lot of which result from failing to follow safety precautions) include:
Common chainsaw-related injuries
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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