What Happens When Worker's Compensation Claim Ends?
WorkCover Queensland is obliged to provide workers' compensation benefits to an injured worker until his or her work injury is stable and stationary. What this means is, when your treating doctors consider that there is no further treatment they can provide to you to improve your injury, then WorkCover Queensland's obligation to meet workers' compensation benefits for that injury ends. WorkCover will then take steps to close your claim file.
When WorkCover or the workers' compensation self-insurer is intending to finalise your workers' compensation claim, you will be notified of this. The steps you take at this time are very important, because if you take the wrong course of action, you could lose your right to claim significant damages for your work injuries. You should contact The Personal Injury Lawyers as soon as possible to enquire whether you have a Common Law claim to pursue, and to ensure any such claim is protected.
I have received a Notice of Assessment at the end of my workers' comp claim and it talks about Lump Sum Offers - what do I do?
At the end of your workers' compensation claim, WorkCover may issue you with a Notice of Assessment. This document will set out your work injuries and accord a percentage impairment for each injury. The impairment for the specific injury will have a correlating monetary amount, being the statutory compensation amount for the injury. The statutory compensation accorded to each injury is taken from tables of injuries and calculations stipulated in the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014 at Schedule 9. The amounts for each injury will be added up and totalled in the Notice of Assessment, and you will be given what we call a Statutory Lump Sum Offer for that total amount.
The Notice will also stipulate the total permanent impairment for your injuries (what is known as a Degree of Permanent Impairment or "DPI"). If your total DPI is equal to or more than 20%, then you can take the Statutory Lump Sum Offer contained in your Notice of Assessment (with respect to the injuries assessed as 20% or more), and you can still bring a Common Law claim for damages for your work injuries.
However, if your total DPI is less than 20%, then you cannot take the Statutory Lump Sum Offer and pursue a Common Law claim - you have to make a choice as to what you wish to do, that is, take the Lump Sum Offer, or sue for damages. If you take the Lump Sum Offer, then you lose any right to seek damages for your injuries. You will only retain this right if you reject or defer the Lump Sum Offer. The decision to take the offer, once made, is irrevocable and cannot be reversed.
You should also be aware that if you have both physical and psychiatric injuries listed in your Notice of Assessment, the DPI for these injuries are not added together when calculating the DPI. They are assessed separately. For example, if you receive a total 10% DPI for your physical injuries, and a 10% DPI for your psychiatric injury, this does not mean you have a 20% DPI and you can take the offer and still sue. You cannot. You can either take the offer or sue, but you cannot do both.
It is very important that you do not make any response to the Notice of Assessment or any Lump Sum Offer from the workers' compensation insurer without first speaking to one of our personal injury experts. An incorrect response to the Notice of Assessment or Lump Sum Offer can result in loss of all rights to claim significant compensation.
My workers' comp claim has finished but I cannot return to my job - what do I do?
If at the end of your workers' compensation claim, you are not able to return to your work with the employer, you should contact Centrelink as soon as possible to register for Newstart or Disability Benefits. Alternatively, you may hold disability insurances attached to your superannuation scheme or through other private insurance arrangements. You should make enquiries with these entities as to whether you have a claim for income protection payments whilst you are unable to work due to your injuries. If you are suffering severe financial hardship, you may be able to draw on your superannuation and you should make enquiries with your superannuation fund to see how you may be able to apply for release of funds in the case of hardship.
If you have a mortgage, credit card repayments or car repayments etc, you may have disability insurances attached to your mortgage or loan agreements which can assist you whilst you are unable to work due to your injury. You should look into these with your lenders.
It should be pointed out that many workers think that WorkCover or the self-insurer is required to get you back to work after an injury. Although return to work programs are usually part of rehabiliation provided in a workers' compensation claim, where an injured worker is no longer suited to the work they were doing prior to their injury and cannot return to it, WorkCover is not obligated to find the worker alternate employment. The workers' compensation insurer is only required to maintain wage payments and funding for medical and rehabiliation treatment until such time as the worker's injuries are stable and stationary. After that time, WorkCover's obligations end, whether the worker is back at work or not.
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