One of the blessings of living in a country such as Australia is that if you have the misfortune to be injured at work, you won’t be left to fend for yourself while you recover.
In Australia’s states and territories, employers are obliged by law to insure their workers against work-related injuries.
In Queensland, this responsibility is set out in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 and covers casual and permanent employees, both full and part-time, as well as some self-employed workers and those deemed to be workers (such as interns, work experience students or volunteers, for example).
A workers’ compensation claim can be made for injuries sustained at work including:
- physical injuries such as cuts, fractures and burns;
- psychological/psychiatric injuries;
- injuries that happen over a period of time, such as industrial deafness;
- injuries that take a long time for symptoms to display, such as silicosis;
- aggravations of pre-existing conditions;
- death from an injury or disease.
A person injured at work who makes a claim under the workers’ compensation scheme can be awarded weekly payments, the costs of medical treatment and care, and a lump sum if your impairment is permanent.
How does a workers’ compensation claim begin?
If you’re hurt at work the first priority is to get treatment for the injury. Obviously, the treatment will differ depending on whether the injury requires immediate treatment (such as a cut, burn or fracture) or a series of specialist consultations (for a psychological injury, for example).
It’s important to keep all records of medical treatment, either on-site at the time of the accident or after visiting a doctor, including the costs of travel to and from the appointments.
A doctor will give an injured worker a work capacity certificate, detailing the nature of the injury and whether it requires the employee to take time off work, or perhaps work in a reduced capacity or a different role. This certificate should be provided to the employer as soon as possible. Those who attend a public hospital after a work injury will find that the hospital will automatically send the work capacity certificate to WorkCover Queensland.
The injury should also be reported as soon as possible to a supervisor or manager of the business where it occurs. Many workplaces will have a formal accident reporting process and an injured person should ensure they can obtain a copy of that report. Likewise, the details of any colleagues who witnessed the incident or incidents should be collected in case their statements are later required to support the workers’ compensation claim.
In many cases of workplace injury, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland should also be notified about the incident.
An injured person should then submit a claim to WorkCover Queensland for investigation of the incident/s that caused the injury. Some employers are ‘self-insurers’ when it comes to employees and independently manage workers’ compensation claims – in these cases, an injured worker should contact the employer or their insurer directly regarding a claim.
The types of workers’ compensation claims
Workers’ compensation operates on a ‘no fault’ basis in Queensland – compensation can be paid to the injured worker regardless of who was at fault for causing the injury. In Queensland, all such claims must first be lodged as a statutory claim under the workers’ compensation scheme.
But where a worker believes the negligence of the employer was responsible for the injury – by not maintaining a safe workplace or keeping equipment in good working order, for example – they can make a common law claim for damages against the workplace’s insurer. This claim can be made for past and future loss of income; treatment and other medical, hospital and rehabilitation expenses; and pain and suffering.
A damages claim can generally only be made after a statutory claim has been accepted by WorkCover Queensland and a notice of assessment of injury has been issued.
The importance of time limits and specialist legal advice
In Queensland a WorkCover claim must be lodged within 20 business days of sustaining the injury or statutory benefits covering lost wages may not be paid for the period of delay. A notice of claim must also be submitted within six months. If it is lodged outside of this time it must be accompanied by a reasonable basis for the delay of the lodgment.
WorkCover must respond on whether it accepts or rejects a claim within 20 business days. It may contact the person making the claim to ask further questions about the injury, its treatment, the claims of witnesses and other issues. It may also contact the employer.
As this post demonstrates, the process of making a workers’ compensation claim is quite involved and can be time-consuming. Putting your compensation matter in the hands of experienced compensation lawyers who know what is required to prepare and pursue a claim through to resolution is the most sensible way to save time and avoid stress, particularly as you are recovering from the injury.
Lifestyle Injury Lawyers helps people injured at work every day. We understand the evidence-gathering process and the important time limits involved in making a claim. We will make sure your claim is handled efficiently and promptly, and that you are informed about its progress all the way through to a satisfactory conclusion.