Your employer is under a duty to provide you with safe systems of work and to ensure your health and safety at work is protected. Your employer may also be responsible for the negligent acts of co-workers which cause you injury.
In Queensland, the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act (2003) requires that you must first make a statutory workers compensation claim before you are entitled to make a further claim through common law. A statutory claim helps cover lost wages and get you back on your feet, whereas a common law claim seeks damages for negligence of your employer/co-workers. Damages available through a common law claim are almost always vastly more significant than a statutory claim.
Step 1: Statutory Workers’ Compensation Claim
The first step in a work injury claim is to make a statutory claim for workers’ compensation. Claims are usually made through the most common workplace injury insurer in Queensland, Workcover Queensland.
You do not have to prove that anyone else was at fault for your injuries. You simply must be able to show that:
- you are injured; and
- your job was a significant contributing factor to your injury (this means a large part of the cause of the injury).
Typically, injured workers are able to complete this step without the assistance of a lawyer. However, you will need a workers compensation medical certificate from your doctor.
Once the insurer accepts your statutory claim, you will be paid benefits (in the form of weekly payments) whilst you recover and undergo rehabilitation. The benefits typically include compensation for lost wages and funding for your medical treatment and rehabilitation costs.
Step 2: Common Law Claim
The insurer (likely to be Workcover Queensland) will eventually taper off your benefits as you reach the point of maximum medical improvement. When this happens, they will either close your claim as you’re able to fully recover and return to the workforce, or if you continue to suffer pain and disability, they will issue you with a notice of assessment and make you an offer of lump sum compensation. It is important to not accept any offer of lump sum compensation before speaking to a lawyer first – if you accept it, you will be prevented from making a common law claim.
When you have been issued with a notice of assessment, you are entitled to ignore/reject the insurer’s offer of lump sum compensation, and instead make a common law claim.
A common law claim is where the worker seeks damages through the courts. The benefit of taking your claim through the court process is that you are entitled to claim for larger amounts than provided for in statutory claims.
You must be able to show that:
- you are injured;
- your job was a significant contributing factor to your injury (this means a large part of the cause of the injury); and
- your employer’s negligence caused or contributed to your injury.
Sometimes injured workers feel like their injuries were because of their own fault and don’t fully consider how their employer could have prevented the injury. A personal injury lawyer is often able to assist in this regard, and guide you through the common law claim process.