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Can I claim workers' comp if injured in a car accident at work or on my way to or from work?

Yes you can. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, whether it is a car, motorcyle or truck accident, if it occurred in the course of your work, or on your way to or from your workplace, then you have a right to claim workers' compensation in relation to your accident injuries.

Even if you are injured in a car accident during a work break, as long as you were not subjecting yourself to an "abnormal risk" at the time of the car accident occurring you can claim workers' compensation. An example of an "abnormal risk", would be where a worker decides to go drag racing with a co-worker in the vacant lot next to his workplace, during his lunch break.

Where a worker suffers injury in a traffic accident on the way to or from the workplace, these workers' compensation claims are commonly referred to as "journey claims". 

There are some circumstances where the workers' compensation insurer can reject a claim for compensation in relation to injuries sustained in a journey claim. This is where there has been a substantial deviation or delay in the journey to or from the workplace. For example, on her way home from work, Mary deviates from her course directly home to pick up some groceries at the supermarket. After leaving the supermarket, she is involved in a car accident on her way home. The workers' compensation insurer is likely to reject Mary's claim for workers' compensation because of Mary's deviation to go shopping on her way home from the workplace.

And say that Mary doesn't have to deviate from her normal route home to do her grocery shopping but just stops at a local store en route. Then although there is no actual deviation from her usual route home, the delay involved in Mary finishing at the workplace and when the car accident occurred may be raised as an indicator that Mary did not go directly home after work, and the workers' compensation insurer may raise this as a reason for rejecting Mary's application for workers' compensation.

So the workers' compensation insurer, which is usually Workcover Queensland, will look at where the accident occurred and when it occurred when the application for workers' comp is made, to assess whether there has been sufficient enough of a delay or deviation to reject the claim under the Workers' Compensation & Rehabilitation Act 2003.

Having a workers' compensation claim can be very helpful after a car accident. This is because it allows you to have any time off you need for your accident injuries to recover properly before returning to work and your lost wages will be paid to you by the workers' compensation insurer. You will also be entiteld to funding for any medical and rehabilitation treatment you need for your accident injuries. And you do not have to be concerned that your employer will be impacted by the workers' compensation claim as, if the accident was not your fault, the compulsory third party insurer of the at-fault vehicle, will be required to reimburse the workers' compensation insurer for your workers' compensation claim.

The workers' compensation insurer will meet this funding until such time as your injuries are deemed stable and stationary by your treating doctors. Once this occurs, then your workers' comp claim will cease.

However, when you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, and the accident is not your fault, then once we lodge a motor accident claim for you with the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurer of the at-fault-vehicle, the CTP insurer will obligated under the Motor Accident Insurance Act 1994 to fund any medical or rehabilitation treatment your doctors say you need for your accident injuries.  This obligation on the CTP insurer continues until your motor accident claim ends, that is, when you are paid out lump sum compensation by way of damages for your accident injuries.

If the motor vehicle accident was your fault, then unfortunately you cannot make a motor accident claim for damages but you may be able to claim a lump sum statutory payment of compensation from the workers' compensation insurer at the end of your workers' compensation claim, if you are assessed by medical specialists as suffering a degree of permanent impairment due to your accident injuries. So if the injuries caused by the car accident have resulted in you suffering a percentage loss of bodily function, then you will have entitlement to receive some statutory lump sum compensation from the workers' compensation insurer.

But it is important to keep in mind when you are involved in an accident, even though you may think the accident was in some way your fault, it does not necessarily mean that you do not have a claim for compensation or damages. In some motor vehicle accidents associated with work, the employer can hold responsibility for the accident occurring. An example of this is providing the worker with a vehicle that was not properly serviced and maintained and this contributed to the accident occurring. Or the employer required the worker to work extensive hours without proper rest breaks, resulting in the worker having an accident on his way home from work.

And sometimes, people think that they don't have a motor accident claim because they may have some part in the accident occurring, but this does not mean you cannot claim for the contribution of the other driver or at-fault party to the accident occurring.  For instance, you are turning from the highway into a street and a vehicle coming through the intersection collides with your vehicle causing you serious injuries. Unfortunately the other vehicle had right of way, BUT, in the circumstances of your case, the other driver should have clearly seen you turning well prior to the collision and could have avoided it, if they had been paying proper attention. In such a case, you would have a car accident claim against the other driver.

This is why it is so very important that you contact us at The Personal Injury Lawyers, if you are involved in an accident to find out if you have a right to pursue injury compensation or damages. You may very well have an entitlement to significant damages and you are completely unaware of it. It is also very important that you speak to us before accepting any statutory lump sum offer of compensation from the workers' compensation insurer as, in doing so, you could possibly lose a right to claim significant damages for your accident injuries

Time limits apply to bringing workers' compensation claims and motor vehicle accident claims, so it is important that you contact us as soon as possible after an accident, to ensure that your claim is properly identified, pursued and protected.

 

You may also be interested in the following articles and cases on this subject:

  • See the case of QComp and John Kennelly v Qantas Airways (C/2012/16) and our article on this case at the following link: Car accident injury on the way to or from work
  • See the case of Brew v Workcover Queensland, where Mr Brew was injured on the way home from work in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel of his car. Mr Brew had been working excessive overtime and not being provided with sufficient work breaks  by his employer, and the court held that the employer had therefore contributed to the car accident occurring. 
  • See the case of Purt v Workcover Queensland, where Mr Purt was injured when the work vehicle he was driving hit a rock concealed in long grass and rolled over whilst travelling in a remote area. The Court held the employer had contributed to the accident because a 4wheel drive vehicle should have been provided to the worker given the type of terrain he had to travel over in the course of his work. 

 

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