Injured worker fined and convicted for exaggerating his injuries

An injured worker who said he could only walk 100m, even with a walking stick, has had his lies uncovered by surveillance video.

Return to Work SA spent more than $50,000 investigating Darren Mumford, who had suffered serious injuries while working in the building industry. But despite the length and expense of the investigation, most charges were dropped against the man who a deputy magistrate said was legitimately injured.

Mumford was fined almost $20,000 and convicted of two breaches of the Return to Work Act. In his judgement, South Australian Employment Tribunal deputy magistrate Stuart Cole said he accepted Mumford had suffered a genuine and serious injury while at work in April 2014.

Mumford pleaded guilty to twice lying about the extent of his injuries while attempting to be categorised and compensated as a seriously injured worker. The tribunal heard that he had suffered thumb, neck and shoulder injuries.

He further damaged his lumbar spine in June 2014 and injured his ankle falling off a treadmill while undergoing rehabilitation in 2015. Mumford admitted lying over two separate claims.

In the first, he asked for compensation for reading glasses and sunglasses he claimed a doctor had advised him to use. The second was a lie he told his treating doctor – that he was supposedly only able to walk 100m using a walking stick.

Return to Work investigators filmed Mumford walking around a shopping centre with the aid of his walking stick for distances greater than 100m. They also filmed him walking unaided on a beach and setting up a fold-up shelter without assistance. The investigation into the extent of Mumford’s disability cost $52,743, according to the judgment.

Lawyers for Return to Work asked Mr Cole to order Mumford, who lives off limited means, to pay all the investigation costs, even though several charges had been dropped. Mr Cole said Mumford had not profited from his lies but also remarked that the worker’s compensation scheme required honest communications.

“The defendant was not presenting a false injury; he had fallen into the trap of exaggerating his walking limitations,” Mr Cole said. “In any event, the defendant does not walk normally, and favours his right leg.

“A walking stick does not work effectively on beach sand.”

Mr Cole said the decision to exaggerate the injuries “in a compensation setting” was a trap others had fallen into in a similar way.

He also said Mumford had hopes of returning to the workforce. However he was facing the prospect of more shoulder surgery.

Mr Cole convicted Mumford but declined to make him pay for all the investigation. He was ordered to pay $18,500 to Return To Work SA as well as another $700 in court fees and costs.

Source: The Advertiser

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