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Understanding Law: Workplace injuries

Emily Bowler

The last thing we think about when we head off to work is whether or not we’ll be injured.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen – which is exactly why it’s mandatory for all employers to hold workers compensation insurance.

At its most simple, workers compensation insurance is designed to compensate workers for injuries suffered in the course of their employment.

Within the ACT, there are two common schemes: the ACT Workers Compensation scheme, and COMCARE. COMCARE is a particularly unique scheme and cannot be adequately covered within this article.

What should I do if I’m injured at work?

If you’re injured at work, you should always report the injury, and preferably, complete an Incident Report.

By reporting an injury and completing an Incident Report as soon as possible following an injury, it will be a far easier process for you to receive workers compensation should you need to submit a claim.

Is my injury serious enough to make a claim?

Generally speaking, if your injury is sufficiently serious that you need to see a doctor or have time off work, then there is good reason to consider making a claim for workers compensation.

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What does workers compensation cover?

The ACT Workers Compensation scheme provides for three main forms of compensation:

1. Weekly benefits if you’re unable to work;

2. Payment of medical expenses associated with the injury; or

3. Modest lump sum for permanent impairment in appropriate circumstances.

Weekly benefits are paid at 100 per cent of your pre-injury wage for the first 26 weeks of incapacity and at 65 per cent of your pre-injury rate thereafter.

How do I make a claim?

To formally make a claim for workers compensation, a specific Claim Form needs to be completed and provided to the appropriate workers compensation insurer. It is generally not sufficient to simply report the injury to your employer or complete an Incident Report.

You can request a Claim Form from your employer, or alternatively, direct from the workers compensation insurer. If your employer will not provide you with the claim form, or the identity of the insurer, you should probably contact a lawyer for assistance.

Do I need to provide a medical certificate?

Absolutely. If you wish to make a workers compensation claim, you will need to see your doctor and request an ACT Workcover Medical Certificate. This type of certificate provides specific information tailored for workers compensation claims and will usually need to be provided along with the claim form.

In most cases, you will need to continue to obtain ACT Workcover Medical Certificates for the duration of the claim.

What happens after a claim is made?

In the first instance, the insurer will make a decision about whether they accept or reject or your claim for compensation. This decision is meant to be made within 28 days.

Regardless of whether the insurer accepts or rejects your claim, it is usually a good idea to contact a lawyer for advice. In most cases, law firms offer a free consultation in personal injury matters.

How do I enforce my rights to workers compensation?

If the insurer rejects your claim for workers compensation in full or in part, you should immediately consult with a lawyer. A lawyer will be able to assist you with filing an application in the ACT Magistrates Court seeking to force the insurer to pay your entitlements.

Can I be fired for making a workers compensation claim?

Workers compensation claims are a cost of doing business in all States and Territories in Australia.

Most employers are perfectly happy for their employers to make a claim for workers compensation – injuries happen and there is a reason that workers compensation is mandatory.

An employer is not entitled to terminate your employment if you make a workers compensation claim. If they do so, you should definitely contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Is it possible to settle a workers compensation claim for a lump sum of money?

Settlements (called commutations) are possible in workers compensation matters.

They are most common in matters where:

* A worker has an on-going incapacity;

* The insurer has an on-going expectation of risk (that is, the claim is going to continue to cost the insurer money);

* The employee is willing to resign from their employment with the insured employer.

If you settle your claim, you will no longer have any ability to compensation in relation to the injury. Because of this, a settlement cannot occur unless:

* You receive advice from a lawyer; and

* The settlement is approved by the ACT Magistrates Court.

What costs are involved with workers compensation claims?

A common misconception is that clients will incur a significant bill by engaging lawyers to assist with their ACT Workers Compensation claim.

If you’re successful with your claim, the workers compensation insurer will be required to pay for all of your legal costs and disbursements.

If you’re not successful with your claim, you will not need to pay any legal costs, although you may need to pay for the cost of medical reports from your doctors etc. As such, there is actually relatively little financial risk to you.

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What will Baker Deane & Nutt do for you?

When you call Baker Deane & Nutt we will obtain preliminary information from you over the phone and arrange an appointment for you to meet with one of our solicitors.

When we meet with you, we will:

* Ascertain the circumstances of your injury;

* Inform you of the process to make an ACT Workers Compensation claim;

* Advise you on what you are eligible to claim for;

* Advise you on settlement options;

* Advise you on costs

By contacting Baker Deane & Nutt early, you have the benefit of being able to inform your solicitor of exactly what has happened to you and to provide them with updates as you obtain treatment. If you leave obtaining legal advice for too long, you will inevitably encounter difficulties recalling the circumstances of injury and establishing a chronology of your treatment and action taken following the injury. We will also relieve you of the often difficult process of dealing with the Workers Compensation insurer and will correspond on your behalf.

For more information on Baker Deane & Nutt Lawyers, visit www.bdn.com.au

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Emily Bowler

Emily Bowler is a solicitor with Baker Deane & Nutt Lawyers in the city office. Emily previously worked as an Associate at the ACT Magistrates Court where she developed a thorough knowledge of ACT legislation and Court procedures. Emily is a gifted advocate who appears regularly in both the ACT Magistrates Court and ACT Supreme Court. Emily is passionate about achieving the best outcome for her clients and her friendly nature is an asset to guiding her clients through the process. More about the Author

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