When you’ve sustained a workplace injury, you need to remember that legal protections can help you secure the medical treatment and financial assistance you need.
If your medical practitioner advises you to take time off work you will usually be entitled to weekly payments of compensation, and payment of your reasonable medical expenses.
What to consider before making a claim for workers’ compensation
1. Provide as many details as you can.
When you inform your GP of your workplace injury, they’ll take a history and note what happened to you. It’s crucial to take this opportunity to provide your doctor with accurate details of the incident, even if those details seem unimportant at the time. If there are any issues about the cause of your injury at a later date, your GP may need to know exactly how the work injury happened.
If you need any time off work, you should also ask your doctor for a WorkCover certificate.
2. Be wary of making statements.
Do not make a statement to a WorkCover investigator. You have no legal obligation to do so. We have seen honest workers have trouble getting their claims accepted after they have provided statements, as they haven’t appreciated the significance of the document they are signing. If in doubt, get advice.
3. Know what to do if your claim for compensation is rejected.
If your claim is rejected, you should dispute the decision. At first instance, you will go to the conciliation service (which is free). If this fails to resolve the dispute, you will then have the option of going to court. It’s very important to seek legal advice about your claim’s merits rather than simply give up because you’re worried about the ramifications or legal costs of challenging a rejection of your claim.
4. Realise that a claim won’t work against you.
Some injured employees feel guilty or anxious about making a workers’ compensation claim. They worry that taking action will give them a bad reputation, cause their employer to reduce their work hours, or cost them their jobs. If your employer is discriminating against you in such a way, remember that the law can assist you. The fact is that if you’ve suffered an injury at work, you’re entitled to make a claim. Taking the time to rest, heal and receive medical treatment on your doctor’s advice is likely to be better for you in the long run.
5. Know that your employer is insured for these types of incidents.
We spend a lot of time at work, so a lot of injuries occur in the workplace. As a result, the law requires employers to have WorkCover insurance. This is a no-fault scheme, so in making a claim, you’re not saying your employer is to blame; you’re simply saying that you’ve been injured at or from work and you need time off or cover for medical expenses to recover, or both. Again, your employer’s insurance covers these requirements–it doesn’t come out of your employer's pocket.
6. Make your claim as soon as possible.
If you need time off or cover for medical expenses, or both, you should make a WorkCover claim as soon as you can. You will then have to see an independent medical practitioner, who will give the insurance company or self-insured employer their medical opinion (rather than provide you with treatment or advice). The practitioner will also provide a report for insurance purposes.
7. Seek legal advice.
If you suffer an injury at work, seek legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity. It’s best to seek advice even if WorkCover accepts your claim, because you may be entitled to other rights to substantial compensation. This may be in the form of a no-fault lump sum for a permanent injury; compensation for your pain, suffering and permanent loss of income; or disablement benefits under your superannuation policy. Whatever WorkCover’s assessment of your claim, call our office to find out whether you’re entitled to anything else.
Liberty Sanger is a Principal, board member and Practice Group Leaderin Maurice Blackburn’s Melbourne offices.