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HIH Workable Meets Demand For "Sprain And Strain"



Workplace accident insurer HIH WorkAble has responded to market demand by offering to cover medical costs for injuries such as those strains and sprains that do not involve external force or resistance.

HIH WorkAble, which insures New Zealand organisations with a total of about 150,000 employees, has this week launched a new policy extension for these injuries.

HIH WorkAble Sprains and Strains cover provides for medical entitlements prescribed under the Accident Insurance Act 1998, including consultation and treatment. Cover of $10,000 is available in any one annual policy period.

The insurance status of injuries not involving external force has recently been in the media spotlight, with cases such as the farmworker who sprained her shoulder dodging a cow in a milking shed, only to find she was not covered by workplace injury insurance.

Both private insurers, who took over the privatised workplace injury insurance market in July, and the Accident Compensation Corporation, which looks after non-work-related claims, work with the same case law.

The statutory definition of an accident, dating from 1992, states that a personal injury must have been caused by a force or resistance outside the claimant's body.

An office worker who suffered shoulder strain while exercising to avoid occupation overuse syndrome also had her claim turned down on this basis. Another to miss out was a rest-home nurse who was injured stretching to reach a light.

HIH WorkAble general manager Mr Steven Cosgrove said accidents excluded by the definition could account for as many as one in 10 workplace injuries.

"With a significant share of the private workplace insurance market, we find ourselves having to turn down claims," he said.

"While it's not our place to comment on the legal definition, it is obvious to us that claimants are genuinely being injured in the course of their work and that there is customer demand for an insurance policy that covers such accidents. That's why we've developed `HIH WorkAble Sprains and Strains cover'."

Mr Cosgrove said confusion over the definition had resulted in some delays in payments to treatment providers. "For people covered by HIH WorkAble Sprains and Strains, the definition will not be an issue and such payment can be prompt."

He said the policy supplement is available to employers for just five percent of their accident insurance premium, with a maximum of $100.

"For the average employer, with 10 to 20 staff, the supplement will cost about $300 a year.

"We expect that a majority of our customers will take up this option, as they have with other accident insurance products we have developed," said Mr Cosgrove.




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