Year: 2019

The team at Fortitude Legal are thrilled to have been named winners at the Law Institute of Victoria’s 15th Annual Law Awards.

The Awards are the most prestigious legal awards program in the State celebrating the “best of the best” and publicly recognising those who demonstrate excellence in legal practice.

Named “Law Firm of the Year” in the Boutique category it was with much gratitude that our Managing Director, Katalin Blond , accepted the Award on behalf of our team recounting that “it was only a short while ago that a few of us dreamt of creating a law firm where we could be true to our values and purpose and fulfil our commitment to our clients without distraction. Fast forward less than 12 months and those dreams are now our reality”.

thanks to the Law Institute of Victoria for acknowledging our team in this way and to our Award sponsor, Clarence Workplaces

There is little doubt that our emergency service workers go above and beyond when carrying out their duties to assist, care for and protect individuals and the community when something goes wrong. It stands to reason that the psychological stress and pressure our front line workers can experience in the performance of their duties is significant.

It is therefore a very important step forward in tackling the mental health concerns of our emergency service workers that the Victorian Government has announced the introduction of a 12 month pilot program to enable these workers to access mental health treatment before a WorkCover claim has been accepted.

The introduction of this pilot will go some way to ensuring that these workers are supported and their mental health needs identified and treated from an early stage. Under the current Victorian WorkCover system, it can take many weeks before a WorkCover claim is accepted for a worker to access the treatment they need and even months when the claim has been rejected.

As WorkCover lawyers we see first hand how workers suffering from a mental health injury can experience more stress and even a worsening of their condition when they are not able to access the medical treatment they need at an early stage of their illness. Further, the stress and worry that can come from being out of pocket for treatment costs is likely to be eliminated for many workers with the introduction of this pilot program and may encourage emergency service workers to seek treatment early on which can only be a good thing.

Stage 1 of the pilot program will commence on 17 June 2019 where Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria Staff and volunteers experiencing a mental health injury will have access to reasonable medical expenses for treatment including GP visits, medication, psychological counselling and psychiatrist appointments.  From 1 July 2019 access will also be opened up to CFA and SES staff and volunteers, public sector nurses, child protection workers, corrections and youth justice workers.

The pilot program is likely to extend to current and former emergency service workers and volunteers. Further, where a WorkCover claim is rejected, emergency service workers will still be able to access reasonable medical expenses for a period of 13 weeks from the date the claim is lodged which is a positive initiative. It is hoped that once the 12 month pilot program concludes, access to payment of reasonable medical expenses will be expanded to all workers injured in Victoria experiencing a mental health injury.

There is still much more to be done in this space to ensure that our emergency service workers are protected, supported and cared for when they experience a mental health injury, but the pilot program is a move in the right direction.

Fleur Jackson

Director and Principal Lawyer


Tom Burgoyne, Director and Principal Lawyer at our Geelong office has again been recognised for his outstanding service to the legal community, being named as Finalist in the Law Institute of Victoria 15th Annual Law Awards.

The Victorian Legal Awards are the most prestigious legal awards program in the State celebrating the “best of the best” and publicly recognising those who demonstrate excellence in legal practice.

Tom has been shortlisted for his feature article ‘Cyclist Beware’ published in the Law Institute Journal.  His article journaled the legal fight of Drysdale man, Rory Wilson, to highlight an anomaly in the law and seek justice following a devastating cycling accident in 2014.  Rory’s courage and Tom’s unwavering commitment were instrumental in having the law changed to benefit all cyclists injured in these circumstances.

This shortlisting has rounded off an exceptional 12 months for Tom, being named Winner in the category ‘Regional Lawyer of the Year’ in the 2018 Awards.

Our firm, Fortitude Legal, has also been named as a finalist in the category of Boutique Law Firm of the Year.   With a focus on regional Victoria we have adopted innovative initiatives to overcome the geographical challenges thrown up by regional practice, not limited to distance and isolation.

“Bringing to life our vision to provide exceptional legal services to Regional Victoria, I am both humbled and thrilled to have both myself and our entire team recognised in this way” said Mr Burgoyne.

Winners of the Awards will be announced at a gala dinner on 17 May 2019.


What is most important to the team at Fortitude Legal is to have clients who are happy with the conduct of their claim.  Clients who feel heard and respected and have trust in us to deliver the best results for them.  At Fortitude Legal we also aim to create a work environment that is both stimulating and fulfilling such that each member of our team loves to come to work each day and continue to fight the good fight.

We can’t deny however, that it’s pretty cool to be acknowledged by our peers for the work that we’re doing.  Fortitude Legal has recently been announced as a Finalist in the Law Institute of Victoria’s 15th Victorian Legal Awards in the category of Boutique Law Firm of the Year.  The Awards are dedicated to acknowledging the outstanding achievements of Victorian legal professionals.

Whilst every lawyer in our team has, over the years, either been a winner or finalist in the individual awards, there’s something really special about our entire team being acknowledged, as the work that we do every day is truly a team effort.  From opening mail and answering phones to the fabulous work done by our amazing and skilled support team, it is the care taken in each step of the process that allows us to deliver on our promises to our clients.

Thank you to the LIV for this acknowledgement and congratulations to the other firms that are finalists in this category.  We’re thrilled to be among you.

Why we must get it right the first time!

At Fortitude Legal, we understand that the time taken to prepare, pursue and present a Common Law claim can be frustrating.  We must ensure we have tracked down every important piece of evidence, every important witness, had all pertinent issues addressed and prepared our client’s case to the highest of standards.  We must also wait until our client’s injuries have stabilised, and the full extent of their loss is known, as far as is practicable.

The need for such thorough preparation is not only to ensure that we get the best result possible for each and every client, but also lies in the “ONCE AND FOR ALL” rule.  A Plaintiff not only carries the burden of proving their claim (‘the burden of proof’) but they only have one chance to do so.

As far back as the 1700’s it was held in England that an injured Plaintiff will have only one action at common law for their damages. So, a Plaintiff who had suffered injury caused by the negligence of another party who brought their claim and received damages for their loss, could not then seek to bring a further claim for damages arising out of the same negligent act or omission simply because at a later point in time their condition deteriorated or for example, came to surgery for those same injuries and had therefore endured greater loss and suffering.

This rule was transported to, and has always applied in Australia.

This rule in part explains why common law claims for damages can take at times years to prepare and pursue. Indeed, as lawyers representing injured people, our minds are never without this rule in our contemplation. That is not to say that some common law claims cannot be brought expeditiously if the evidence permits (more on this below), however maximising our client’s rights by ensuring that everything is in place prior to negotiating a settlement, is paramount.

Lump Sum Damages

It follows on from the operation of this “ONCE AND FOR ALL” rule that damages at common law are awarded as a lump sum.  Some criticism has been levelled at this method of providing for damages including the following:

  • There is an inherent difficulty, and in many respects an impossibility, in assessing future loss beyond the date of a settlement conference, a mediation or a trial; and
  • The lump sum is received now (and with certain discount factors applied to the lump sum to reflect the fact that the money is arguably worth more in the hand now, and various other factors) but the losses are not necessarily faced until a future point and the damages may be dissipated before then.

However, the need for finality and certainty for both sides (the injured Plaintiff and the negligent Defendant and its insurer) has been seen as a very powerful factor for retaining the lump sum nature of damages payments.

Telling YOUR Story

So, how do we as personal injuries lawyers assist our clients in establishing their future loss? Essentially, we tell YOUR story. This is done through a number of ways and is based on our gathering of, preparation of and presentation of the relevant evidence in our client’s case, including:

  • Taking very detailed and ongoing instructions from our client as to work history pre-injury, attempts to return to work post-injury, attempts to retrain, career aspirations/intentions and treatment plans;
  • Taking very detailed and ongoing instructions from our client as to the stability of their injuries (that is, have they completed the course of treatment recommended for their particular injuries and circumstances so we can assess the permanency of their present state?);
  • Obtaining all financial and other evidence to prove allegations in respect of future loss (although the past is not necessarily an indicator of what a person would have gone on to do in the future had the injury not occurred, it is a very relevant and powerful foundation);
  • Seeking detailed comments from treating medical teams by way of reports detailing future treatment needs, the prognosis and the likelihood of certain needs eventuating;
  • Seeking detailed comments from appropriately qualified independent expert witnesses (known as medico-legal doctors) by way of reports detailing future treatment needs, the prognosis and the likelihood of certain needs eventuating;
  • Always revisiting the totality of the evidence to ensure ‘the time is right’ for our client’s case to be formally presented and negotiations with the other side entered into.

On this last point, the lawyer acting in your best interests will not be afraid to regularly and diligently review the evidence in your case to see if you should be advised that your case should be brought now or deferred until a later point (within the parameters of limitation dates – time limits).

Our Duty To YOU

At Fortitude Legal, while we recognise the need to achieve a timely outcome (noting the ongoing pressures – financial and otherwise – clients suffer the longer a case takes), we aim to never compromise what is in our client’s best interests. Our first duty as lawyers is to the Court and the proper administration of justice and to our clients. There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. This is very true, however if a case is rushed, under-prepared and not ready to present, it is unlikely a Plaintiff will receive the best outcome possible.

It is important in managing a case that our clients understand why we do what we do and when it has to be done.  At Fortitude Legal, we pride ourselves on clear and constant communication with each and every client and our door is always open to answer any question no matter how big or small.

At Fortitude Legal – We’re In YOUR Corner!