Tribunal combines impairments arising from the same injury to increase benefits for injured worker

Employment & Safety

In brief 3 min read

The South Australian Employment Tribunal (Tribunal) has allowed a worker to combine two impairments arising from a single work-related injury for the purpose of calculating his entitlement to compensation under the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) (Act).1

Key takeaways

  • By combining impairments arising from the same injury or cause, workers may be assessed as having a higher level of 'whole person impairment'. This will allow them to access increased benefits under the Act.


Mr Brandyn Daddow was employed as a farmhand at a poultry farm when he suffered a back injury during the course of his employment.

Mr Daddow later suffered digestive impairment from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which he attributed to the medication he was prescribed as treatment for his back injury, the stress caused by the injury, or a combination of both. Mr Daddow argued that he should be able to combine his back injury and digestive system impairments for the purposes of calculating his entitlement to compensation under the Act.

The Act provides for lump sum compensation payments to injured workers for future economic loss and non-economic loss (including pain and suffering), provided the worker has a 'whole person impairment' of 5% or more. Impairments arising from the same injury or cause are to be assessed together or 'combined' to determine the worker's degree of impairment.

The decision

The Tribunal accepted that the medical evidence established that Mr Daddow's IBS arose as a result of stress related to his back injury. Applying the test of causation and following the reasoning in the recent Supreme Court decision of Return to Work Corporation of South Australia v Summerfield2, the Tribunal found that:

  • because Mr Daddow's IBS was triggered by the stress of the back injury, the IBS arose from an unbroken chain of causation starting with the back injury; and
  • accordingly, the digestive system impairment arose from the same cause as the back injury impairment.

On this basis, the Tribunal allowed the back injury and digestive system impairments to be combined for the purposes of calculating Mr Daddow's entitlement to lump sum compensation payments for economic and non-economic loss under the Act.


  1. The Hartford Davis/Bush opinion follows a suite of other legal opinions that examined the evolving nature of directors' duties in relation to climate change risks, which were published by Noel Hutley SC and Sebastian Hartford Davis between 2016-2021.