A workplace injury can have can far reaching consequences for you and your family and it’s something many of us think will never happen to us. But what if it does?
Workers Compensation in Qld
Thankfully, workers in Queensland are fortunate to have the protection of one of the most comprehensive workers’ compensation schemes of any Australian state or territory. The scheme not only protects people who are injured at work but also benefits any worker who is injured on their way to or from work or during any recess occurring in work hours, such as a lunch break.
Under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, a “worker” is a person who works under a contract and is an employee for the purposes of assessment for PAYG withholding under the Taxation Administration Act. In some circumstances, coverage of the scheme will extend to share farmers, commission salespeople and a contractor if the contractor does not employ their own staff and if they perform the work personally.
An injury suffered by a worker will be accepted for payment of statutory benefits by WorkCover Queensland where the injury arises out of or during their employment.
Where a psychiatric injury is concerned, there are some limitations. A person’s employment must be the major significant contributing factor to the injury and there are certain exclusions where, the injury arises out of reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way. According to WorkCover Qld, “Examples that may constitute reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way can include but are not limited to action taken to transfer, demote, discipline, redeploy, retrench or dismiss a worker”.
As there is strict criteria around what type of psychological injury claims that can be accepted, it is always wise for a worker to seek advice about their circumstances before lodging a claim. This will allow them to assess whether their circumstances will fall within the definition of an “injury” under the Act.
Where an injury suffered by a worker is an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, it does not necessarily exclude benefits being available but will limit the acceptability of the injury by WorkCover only to the extent of the aggravation caused by work.
Time limits apply so it’s important to act quickly
The Act sets a time limit for applying for compensation as 6 months after the entitlement to compensation arises.
However, it is important for a worker to lodge their application within the first 20 business days. Where an application is lodged more than 20 business days after the entitlement to compensation arises, the extent of the insurer’s liability to pay compensation is limited to the period starting no earlier than 20 days before the day on which the valid application is lodged. To ensure they receive full benefits available under the scheme, a worker must lodge an application promptly.
What happens after acceptance of a claim?
Once an injury has been accepted by WorkCover, they will fund reasonable rehabilitation services including paying for medical and rehabilitation treatment and lost wages. The weekly payment of compensation will continue while the worker remains incapacitated and unable to return to work, although the rate of benefits can be reduced overtime.
Where a worker does not make a full recovery from their injury, they will generally be assessed by the insurer, so they can make a lump sum compensation offer which will be based upon the degree of ongoing impairment (called a “DPI”). At this point of the claim, a worker will have to decide to accept either accept a lump sum from the insurer or pursue damages. Once they make this decision, it cannot be undone, so it is critically important that workers understand their rights before choosing which path to take. The consequences of making an uninformed decision will last a lifetime
Seek professional advice
If you, or someone you know has suffered an injury during your employment, you will need to lodge an application quickly. Keep documentation regarding treatment costs and other “out of pocket” expenses and get advice from a lawyer, especially if it looks as though the injury could have ongoing consequences. There are generally, no fees for initial consultations and you will have a much better understanding of the process.