Being injured at work can be an enormously traumatic experience, suddenly depriving you of your livelihood while leaving you to deal with a sometimes chronic, long-lasting condition.
Workplace injury can also take many forms, from physical damage such as amputations, fractures and brain injuries, to less severe injuries such as strains and sprains, and mental injuries such as severe stress which can potentially cause events such as a heart attack or exacerbation of a pre-existing condition. It’s important to note that work can be the sole cause of these diseases or injuries, or might aggravate or worsen existing injuries or diseases.
Workers’ compensation schemes throughout Australia provide a source of redress for those injured at work but, should you find yourself in this situation, there are a number of important steps you need to take after the damage occurs.
How do workers’ compensation claims work?
Workers’ compensation is a statutory scheme of insurance designed to pay the wages and medical expenses of those who have been injured in the workplace. In Queensland, claims will be generally decided by WorkCover Queensland, however some employers may be self insured.
Workers’ compensation claims are decided on a ‘no fault’ basis, meaning compensation is paid regardless of who was at fault for causing the injury, unless the injury is self-inflicted or caused by serious and wilful misconduct (with some exceptions) on your part. You’ll be entitled to make a claim provided employment was a “significant contributing factor” (or, for a psychological claim, the “major significant contributing factor”) to you sustaining the injury. There is also the ability to lodge a claim for injuries suffered while travelling for work or while receiving medical treatment for a work injury.
What to do once you’re injured
In order to make a successful workers’ compensation claim, the following basic steps need to be followed:
- Notify your employer of your injury (and how it occurred) as soon as possible. This usually involves completing an Incident Report Form with your employer.
- Go to your GP and get them to complete a Workers Comp Medical Certificate, or ‘capacity’ certificate, which requires the doctor to focus on what you can do within your capacity and consider what tasks you can perform.
- Lodge an ‘incident and claim’ application for compensation online at the WorkCover Queensland website (or by phone). If your employer is self-insured, you can lodge your claim with the self-insurance team at your workplace.
- Provide a copy of your application for compensation and medical certificate to your employer.
- Let WorkCover know if your condition changes.
Things to be aware of
It’s important to act quickly after a workplace injury occurs. A workers’ compensation claim with WorkCover Queensland needs to be made no longer than six months after the injury is sustained. Because this is likely a situation you haven’t confronted before, the workers’ compensation process can be daunting. This is why consulting an experienced workplace lawyer can ensure you follow the correct procedure in making your claim.
Under the relevant Act, your employer is required to assist you in preparing a workers’ compensation claim but you are under no obligation to accept this assistance. Indeed, injured workers are sometimes pressured by employers to avoid making a claim or seeking legal advice. Some employers will also try and persuade an injured worker to visit a doctor of their choosing. If your injuries are severe enough at the time of the injury, of course you will need to receive initial medical treatment perhaps provided by the employer but afterwards, you should always visit a GP of your own choosing to have your injuries assessed before making a compensation claim.
Be sure to advise your doctor about all of your injuries and symptoms. Insurers will likely challenge any injuries not recorded by your treatment provider so mention everything and not just the major injuries or the ones causing you the most pain at the time.
In lodging a claim, be sure to include as much detail as possible in order to give your claim the best chance of success, including information about the incident, the events that led to the incident, who was involved, the names of witnesses, photos or any other evidence of the scene, and anything else relevant such as emails, forms or other documentation covering your employment.
What will you be entitled to?
A work injury resulting in a loss of earnings due to reduced hours may entitle you to a weekly payment from WorkCover Queensland (or your employer’s self-insurer).
Weekly payments depend on a number of factors including: the date of your injury; the length of time your doctor has said you should be off work; the length of your claim; and whether an award or workplace agreement applies to you.
You will be paid a percentage of your normal weekly pay, based on what you have earned each week from your job during the 12 months before your injury. This amount comprises regular payments which would have continued if you hadn’t been injured and includes: salary or wages; duties; penalties; allowances and overtime.
While workers are protected by statutory workers’ compensation schemes, you can also pursue a common law claim for damages. But unlike the ‘no fault’ character of workers’ compensation, a common law claim will require you to show your injury was caused by the negligence of a third-party (generally your employer or a co-worker).
If you wish to pursue a common law claim, you need to file a Notice of Claim for Damages with WorkCover Queensland within three years of the injury occurring. It’s also important that, even if you are considering pursuing a common law claim, you initially lodge a workers’ compensation claim with WorkCover Queensland.
Whether you’re filing a workers’ compensation claim or a common law claim for a workplace injury, seeking the advice and guidance of a legal professional with experience in this area is highly advisable to ensure compliance with the necessary steps, and in order to secure the full amount of compensation to which you’re entitled.
It is important to seek specific advice regarding your circumstances as this fact sheet provides general information only and does not constitute legal advice.