In Australia the trend on being injured or contracting a disease at work is thankfully on a long-term decline due to better compliance with workplace health and safety laws and procedures. But work-related injury or disease is still a fact of many workers’ jobs, particularly those in manual occupations.
Safe Work Australia found that in 2019-20 there were 130,195 serious claims (defined as accepted workers’ compensation claims for an incapacity that results in a total absence from work of one working week or more, excluding fatalities and journey claims). The median work time lost as a result of these claims was seven weeks.
In Australia’s states and territories, an injured worker has recourse to workers’ compensation laws. In Queensland, the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 sets out the scheme protecting 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.
Under the scheme, an injured person can be awarded weekly payments, the costs of medical treatment and care, and a lump sum if your impairment is permanent. In this article we look at seven things you need to do from the moment you’re aware you’ve been injured at work.
1. Seek medical attention
The first priority if you’re injured at work is obviously to seek medical treatment. Many workplaces, such as construction sites, will have a first aid officer and facilities for the treatment of physical injuries. Other injuries may require a visit to the emergency department of a hospital or a medical centre. Longer term injuries such as a psychological injury or a dust disease, for example, will require more specialist types of medical assessment.
It’s important for an injured worker to keep records of all medical treatment from the moment they are aware of the injury, including receipts and invoices for travel, treatment and other outlays.
2. Advise your employer and make a report
Any work injury should be reported as soon after the event to an employer or the worker’s supervisor or manager. These days, most workplaces will have a formal accident reporting procedure with a form to be completed. An injured employee should always seek to obtain a copy of this report for possible inclusion with a later workers’ compensation claim. Depending on the workplace, an injury may also need to be reported to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for investigation.
3. Collect evidence such as witness statements
A crucial part of any claim for compensation is the injured party’s supporting evidence. Where possible, the contact details of eyewitnesses to the incident or the workplace circumstances in which the injury occurred should be collected and statements taken from each of them to help provide information and context. Any work accident, police or other occupational health and safety reports should also be gathered to submit with your claim. Combined with the information provided by medical assessments of the injury, this collection of evidence can present a compelling picture in support of a claim.
4. Get a work capacity certificate
This certificate from a doctor is required before any workers’ compensation claim can be made. The information it provides to the employer and to WorkSafe Queensland includes:
- diagnosis of the injury;
- the injured person’s capacity to work;
- rehabilitation plans, return-to-work programs and which work duties are suitable given the nature of the injury;
- timeframes for the completion of treatment and rehabilitation;
- a clearance certificate stating the work-related injury has resolved or that the worker has a full capacity for work.
This certificate should be provided to the employer as soon as possible. In cases where a worker attends a public hospital for treatment of a work injury, the hospital will generally automatically send a work capacity certificate to WorkSafe.
5. Prepare a workers’ compensation claim
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. All such claims must first be lodged as a statutory claim under the workers’ compensation scheme before any common law claim can be made (see below). A claim against the employer’s accident insurer can be made for an injured worker’s:
- lost wages;
- medical costs, for example doctor consultations, medication, x-rays;
- hospital costs (public and private);
- rehabilitation costs like physiotherapy or return-to-work programs;
- travel expenses relating to treatment, or the claim;
- lump sum payments;
- death benefits and funeral expenses.
It should be noted some employers are ‘self-insurers’ when it comes to employees and independently manage workers’ compensation claims – injured workers should contact the employer or their insurer directly regarding a claim in this situation.
In Queensland a WorkCover claim must be lodged within 20 business days of sustaining the injury. A notice of claim must also be submitted within six months of injury or the injured person may be barred from making a claim.
If an injured party believes their injury was caused by the negligence of the employer, a common law claim for damages can be made for past and future loss of income; treatment and other medical, hospital and rehabilitation expenses; legal costs; and pain and suffering.
6. Keep all records
As already mentioned in relation to medical attention, it’s vital an injured worker keep all records in connection with their injury, from accident reports to receipts for travel, rehab charges and costs related to the claim itself. The reason for this requirement is so the costs can potentially be recouped through the workers’ compensation claim.
7. Speak with an expert workers’ compensation lawyer
Making a workers’ compensation claim can be a stressful and time-consuming experience at a time when the injured person is dealing with rehabilitation and, in some cases, concerns about their future employment prospects. Seeking the guidance of legal professionals with expertise in this area can help alleviate some of the difficulty involved in making a claim. At GC Law our personal injury lawyers can do the hard work in collecting evidence, co-ordinating medical assessments and dealing with the employer’s workplace insurer, saving you unnecessary time and worry.
If any of the content in this post applies to your situation, contact GC Law today for an initial consultation.
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Our team at GC Law can provide you with a free consultation today to discuss your bicycle injury compensation claim. Get in touch with our Gold Coast Worker compensation lawyers today for a free consultation and speak with a qualified lawyer who can explain your options.