One of the first questions a person seeking compensation for an injury they’ve suffered at work will ask is how much money they may be entitled to receive under Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme.
There are a number of factors which influence the amount of money paid to an injured worker as either statutory benefits or a lump sum paid in the case of suffering a permanent impairment from the injury. They key considerations are:
- the circumstances of the accident;
- the nature and extent of the injuries sustained;
- the nature and extent of any pre-existing injuries;
- the age and life expectancy of the person;
- whether the injuries are likely to affect the injured person’s ability to earn an income in the future;
- the level of care required, past, present and future, both paid and gratuitous (family members, etc);
- medical and other expenses;
- likely future expenses.
All of these factors are considered in determining what a person making a workers’ compensation application will receive if their claim is accepted by WorkCover Queensland or an insurer.
What can the claim cover?
Compensation payouts to injured workers, as outlined above, include statutory benefits, a lump sum offer for permanent impairment, and common law damages if the negligence of the employer or a colleague in causing the injury can be established.
If a WorkCover statutory claim is accepted, an injured worker will receive money to compensate for:
- lost wages for the time you are unable to work;
- the costs of medical treatment (including doctors’ consultations, medicines, x-rays, etc);
- the costs of necessary hospital stays;
- rehab costs, such as physio or a return-to-work programs agreed between the worker and their employer;
- travelling expenses, i.e. to and from medical appointments or the hospital.
Weekly benefits paid initially once your claim is accepted are calculated on the date the injury occurred, how much time is needed off work and whether your terms of employment are governed by an industrial award. The payments are then worked out as a percentage of your weekly wage with your current employer in the 12 months before your injury. If you’ve been employed less than 12 months, the benefit will be calculated on what you’ve earned in the period you’ve been employed. The payment reflects what you would have earned had you not been injured, including salary or wages, duties, penalties, allowances and overtime.
If you are being paid under an industrial award, you are eligible to receive the greater of 85 per cent of your normal weekly earnings (NWE) or the amount payable under the instrument. Injured workers not under an award are eligible to receive the greater of 85 per cent of normal weekly earnings or 80 per cent of a full-time adult’s ordinary time earnings in Queensland, up to 26 weeks. For claims between 26 weeks to 104 weeks, the payment is the greater of 75 per cent of NWE or 70 per cent of ordinary time earnings. After 104 weeks compensation will depend on the worker’s degree of impairment.
It should be noted that a WorkCover claim is ‘no fault’ – no one need to be legally responsible for the injury in order to make the claim. Benefits will continue until you are fit to return to work and your injuries have reached maximum medical improvement; when you receive a lump sum offer; when you’ve been receiving weekly payments for five years; or when your total weekly compensation reaches the maximum amount payable.
Lump sum offers: Once your injuries have stablished, an accredited medical practitioner can assess your degree of permanent impairment (DPI). Permanent loss of movement, loss of a limb, disfigurement or severe mental disorder are some examples of permanent impairments.
A ‘Notice of Assessment’ from WorkCover Queensland will make an offer of a lump sum payment to finalise the statutory compensation claim based on a set calculation. A DPI of 20 per cent or above allows the claimant to accept the lump sum compensation amount and still make a claim for common law damages, but for a DPI of less than 20 per cent, a choice must be made between the lump sum or the damages claim. Generally speaking, a common law negligence claim will yield a greater payout if successful.
Expert legal advice from qualified compensation law professionals is essential when considering a lump sum offer.
A workers’ compensation case example
In Nkamba v Queensland Childcare Service Pty Ltd  QDC 292, a childcare centre worker was setting up an activity for the children when, laden with equipment from a storage shed, she stepped backwards and rolld her ankle on a small Lego block left on artificial grass, rupturing her anterior talofibular ligament. The plaintiff, Ms Nkamba, said the incident occurred around 6am in the morning when it was still dark and that a defective light in the storage shed impaired visibility in the area where the Lego brick lay. The defendants argued there was enough general light for Ms Nkamba to have seen the block and that she had been contributorily negligent in causing the injury. It was discovered Ms Nkamba had also previously told her employer about the defective shed light, to no effect.
Ms Nkamba was paid statutory benefits under a WorkCover claim but the court also awarded her $197,013.98 in damages, clear of any workers’ compensation refund liability, with $116,288 awarded for past economic loss as a result of her injury.
Speak with compensation law experts
There is a lot to do in making a workers’ compensation claim, including gathering evidence, attending medical appointments and meeting time limits for making an application. The process can be stressful and time-consuming, before any consideration of what sort of payments you might be entitled to. To remove some of the stress and worry from making a claim, discussing your case with our professional team at GC Law is highly advisable. Our personal injury lawyers can give you an assessment of the strength of your claim, a timeline of how the claim should progress, and an appraisal of how much compensation you may be entitled to. Contact us today to help us put your mind at ease if you’ve been injured at work.