Man Who Strained His Back Picking Up Company Car Keys to Receive Compensation

An Australian court has ruled that a man who accidentally dropped the keys to a company car and strained his back while bending over to pick them up is entitled workers compensation. On Sept. 9, 2019, Robert Thelan was on call at home when he received a text message from SA Power Networks, telling him to go fix a power line. Thelan went out to the company-issued Ford Ranger in his driveway, sat down in the driver’s seat, but accidentally dropped the keys to the car onto the pavement. While remaining seated, he reached down to grab the keys and strained his back. Thelan was able to drive himself to work to report his injury and was then taken to the hospital. His injury left him unable to work and he incurred substantial medical expenses. SA Power Networks rejected his claim, saying his injury “did not arise from employment and employment was not a significant contributing cause of the injury” and that he was “merely undertaking activity preparatory to undertaking duties of employment” when the back strain occurred. Thelan argued that his employment agreement stated that he started getting paid when he began his journey to a job, and that he was required to use the company vehicle to get there. According to his attorney, Thelan was entitled to compensation because he was doing his duty when the injury occurred. The courts agreed with Thelan, saying that his injury is work-related and he needs to be compensated by his employer.