‘Understanding your Entitlements’
The first step for injured workers in Queensland to protect their entitlements is the lodgement of a statutory claim with their respective workers’ compensation insurer. For the majority of injured workers in Queensland that will be WorkCover Queensland. Over recent months, we have detailed the pitfalls and complexities in retaining appropriate legal representation, the concerning position interstate workers’ compensation schemes currently find themselves and the evolving nature of the legislation that governs the Queensland statutory scheme.
However, for many injured workers the most important question is “what exactly am I even entitled to?”
Weekly Compensation Benefits
Weekly compensation benefits are designed to provide an injured worker with financial assistance if they have suffered a work related injury that prevents them from performing their ordinary duties. These payments are extremely important for injured workers who require time off work to recover and rehabilitate. These payments are also important for those workers who require time to re-train into a new career due to being unable to return to their pre-injury employment.
The quantification of these weekly benefits is dependent on a number of factors unique to each individual as well as the particular industry in which they are employed. However, the most common scenario for injured workers who are totally incapacitated is to receive the following entitlement:
• 85% of normal weekly earnings for an initial 26 week period;
• 75% of normal weekly earnings until 2 year mark;
• either continuation of 75% of normal weekly earnings (if greater than 15% impairment) or reduction to pension rate (if 15% impairment or less) until 5 year mark.
An injured worker can also be paid under an industrial award or contract of service which can result in greater payments than outlined above.
Accordingly, it is important for injured workers to obtain legal advice to ensure their weekly benefits have been calculated correctly and have been maximised during this difficult period.
Medical and Rehabilitation Entitlements
Injured workers are also entitled to the following:
• medical treatment;
• psychiatric and/or psychological support;
• rehabilitation expenses;
• pharmaceutical expenses;
• reasonable travel expenses (to appointments, rehab, assessments etc);
• return to work and/or vocational assistance.
An injured worker is also required to mitigate their loss in order to receive these benefits as well as weekly compensation payments. This requires injured workers to satisfactorily participate in reasonable return to work assistance and rehabilitation.
Lump Sum Compensation
An injured worker may also be entitled to lump sum compensation if their injury/injuries have stabilised or reached maximum medical improvement and they have been left with any ongoing impairment or disability. There is no need to prove legal fault or negligence to be entitled to this lump sum compensation.
This lump sum compensation is contained in a document called a Notice of Assessment which can be issued by WorkCover once an injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement and their injuries have been assessed by an independent specialist. The injured worker can also request WorkCover to commence the process of issuing the Notice of Assessment.
It is extremely important for an injured worker to obtain expert legal advice before making any decision in relation to a Notice of Assessment as this decision can impact their ability to pursue common law entitlements. If the level of impairment in the Notice of Assessment is less than 20%, an injured worker must make a choice in relation to accepting the offer of lump sum compensation or pursuing a common law claim, the injured worker is not able to do both.
An injured worker should seek appropriate legal advice before making a decision in relation to the Notice of Assessment as the potential value of a common law claim can often outweigh the offer of lump sum compensation contained in the Notice of Assessment.
As outlined above, there are various entitlements available to injured workers in Queensland pursuant to a statutory workers’ compensation claim and it is important all injured workers understand their rights and obligations.
Each of the entitlements outlined above may not necessary be applicable or enforceable in every claim. There are many considerations and factors unique to each individual claim. Accordingly, it is crucial for injured workers to obtain legal advice to ensure there are fully informed before making any irreversible decisions. This also ensures the injured worker has the peace of mind of knowing they are taking the appropriate steps to secure their best possible outcome. Contact vbr WorkCover Lawyers Gold Coast for obligation free initial advice.
This blog was written by Charlton Wilson, Solicitor
Phone: 07 5593 2122 or Toll Free 1800 316 716
This blog was edited by Zach Samuels, Senior Associate
Phone: 07 5593 2122 or Toll Free 1800 316 716