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A work injury can have devastating impacts on you and your family. An injury that results in time off work, medical expenses, lost income or life-long symptoms can cause huge financial and personal stress. And although many people injured at work are covered by WorkCover, some are not. If you’re injured at work and told that WorkCover doesn’t cover you, it’s important to get legal advice. A lawyer can first determine whether or not this advice is correct. And then, if it is, help you explore other ways to claim compensation, such as through public liability insurance

Who isn’t covered by WorkCover?

Typically, WorkCover won’t cover your injuries if you are a genuine contractor. That’s because contractors are more likely to:

  • have a high level of control over their work, including the ability to accept and reject work
  • be able to decide what hours to work
  • be engaged for a specific project or service
  • have an ABN, pay their own income, tax, GST and superannuation; and
  • use their own tools and equipment.

When does public liability insurance apply?

Where WorkCover doesn’t apply, often something called public liability insurance does. Basically, this refers to the fact that individuals, businesses and organisations have a duty of care to ensure people at their workplaces – whether on privately or publicly owned spaces – are safe. And they hold insurance to cover those risks.

Here are two examples that demonstrate where workers are covered by public liability insurance, rather than WorkCover.

Public liability cases: Joe’s story

Joe is a painter and contracted to various businesses. He is contracted by a construction company, Dodgy Brothers Construction, to paint a new residential development site. And he begins work without having a site induction or orientation. 

Joe isn’t aware that Dodgy Brothers had arranged for another contractor, Diggit Deep Pty Ltd to place cables in the ground on the building site. Diggit Deep digs a number of pits  across the site and works with Dodgy Brothers staff to place plastic sheeting boards over the pits. 

Joe is going about his work when he steps onto a plastic sheet, falls into a pit and breaks his right arm and left leg. He needs surgery on both and isn’t able to work for over six months. Tragically, he is told by doctors that his right arm will have permanent problems – a major issue for a painter who relies on both arms to do his job.  

This example shows us that even though Joe isn’t covered by WorkCover, he does have a right to compensation – from Dodgy Brothers and Diggit Deep. Both businesses failed to do things which could have kept Joe safe – this is known as negligence. And when negligence can be shown, people like Joe can get compensation.

Through public liability insurance, Joe is able to claim for:

  • pain and suffering
  • past and future medical and treatment costs
  • past and future care and assistance from family or paid services, and
  • past and future loss of income and superannuation. 

Public liability cases: Mick’s story

Mick is a plumber and contracts to various businesses providing plumbing installation. He has his own ABN, and controls the work he does, so he probably isn’t covered by WorkCover.

Mick’s firm is engaged by construction company, White Shoe Brigade Pty Ltd, to install plumbing for a high-rise apartment complex. To perform the plumbing installation works, Mick must climb up and down scaffolding.  White Shoe Brigade Pty Ltd contracts a scaffolding company, Heights R Us Pty Ltd to set up the scaffolding. 

Mick climbs the scaffolding and it collapses – due to poor construction by White Shoes Pty Ltd and a lack of proper fixing to the building by Heights R Us Pty Ltd.  Both companies are at fault.

Mick has fallen three stories and broken his leg so badly it needs to be amputated below the knee. He needs lots of time off work, very expensive prosthetics and will have to retrain to a new profession. The pain and financial stress puts pressure on his marriage and family, and his life is terribly affected.

This is another clear example of where public liability insurance will apply. Mick relied on the head contractor and the scaffolding company to do their jobs properly, and they failed to do so. Mick can show negligence occurred and can claim compensation from one – or both – of the businesses at fault.

He can make a public liability claim for:

  • his pain and suffering
  • medical expenses including for his prosthetics, and
  • his loss of income up to now and into the future.

If you're injured at work, we can help you understand your options

If you’re injured at work and not covered by WorkCover, you may be eligible for compensation through a public liability claim. Our experienced public liability lawyers are here to support you through the process; we know how stressful a work injury can be and will do everything we can to lighten your load.

It’s important you get legal advice as early as possible, because in most cases, public liability claims must be made within three years of the incident date. 

At Maurice Blackburn, we are experts in WorkCover and public liability, so we can review your case and talk you through your options. Contact us for a free and confidential discussion today.

Talk to one of our specialist public liability lawyers today

If you've been hurt in a public place, including a sports field, rental property, path or in a store, our experienced team of public liability lawyers can help.