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July 19, 2016
5 Tips to Claiming Workers’ Compensation

It’s an unfortunate fact that suffering an injury in the workplace is just the tip of the iceberg. It sets in motion a chain of inconvenient events that can include weeks or months of time off and recovery, and the medical expenses that follow.

However, there are legal protections in place — for seasonal, piece and commission, casual, part-time and full-time workers — that can help you secure the financial and medical treatment you require.

If you are advised to take time off work by your medical practitioner, the cost of reasonable medical and rehabilitation expenses will usually be covered as a result of your entitlement to workers’ compensation.

Workers defined under the aforementioned classifications firstly, submit a prescribed claim form to their employer which is by and large referred to and dealt with by the employer’s insurer.

If there is a refusal to admit liability or a dispute as to the types of workers’ compensation benefits the worker claims, he/she can submit that dispute to WorkCover WA by a process known as conciliation and if the dispute cannot be resolved the worker can refer the dispute to arbitration (a process by which WorkCover WA rules on the dispute.

Those who are classified as self-employed contractors or sub-contractors pose particular difficulties as to whether they are employees under state legislation.

It is often the case that such contractors avoid the risk of not being seen at law as an employee and are therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation, opting instead to take out personal insurance against accident and injury (also known as Keyman insurance).

Government employees however, should lodge any workers’ compensation claims with ComCare.

Factors That May Affect Your Ability to Make a Claim

To ensure your workers’ compensation claim is processed as quickly as possible, there are some things you will need to do and be mindful of. For example:

1. Be Conscious of Time Constraints

In the state of WA, all claims for compensation must be made as soon as is practicable and within 12 months of the date the injury occurred (or the disease was discovered, if applicable). Should you submit outside this time limit, seek legal advice.

2. Take the Opportunity to Speak with Your GP

It’s vitally important that you relay what happened to your GP. Importantly, an employer and its insurer will generally not process a claim to workers’ compensation without what is known as a ‘First Medical Certificate.’

Be as specific as you can and make mention of any relevant details, even the ones you think may be inconsequential. Doing so will help you should an issue affecting your claim arise at a later date.

3. Know Where Your Legal Obligations End

If you are legally entitled to workers’ compensation and you make a claim, understand that you are under no legal obligation to provide a statement to a WorkCover investigator.

You may do so of your own volition, however, it is advised that you obtain legal counsel to appreciate the significance of any document you are asked to sign and it is often better to have a lawyer be present when that statement is taken.

This will ensure only relevant questions are asked and proper answers are given, and that you will have the opportunity to check and amend such a statement before it is signed.

4. Find Out if Your Employer is Appropriately Insured

As Australian’s spend a large amount of their time at work, the chances of a workplace injury occurring are quite high. Because of this, employers are required by law to take out workers’ compensation insurance for all their employees.

The West Australian workers’ compensation legislation creates in effect a no fault system — that means, provided your injury occurs in the course of your employment, it matters not whether your injury is due to any negligence on the part of the employer.

In other words, by making a claim, you are not placing any blame upon your employer. You are simply stating a point of fact in that you’ve suffered an injury at work and need to take of time off and/or pay for relevant medical expenses that will be incurred during your recovery.

Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy will cover these entitlements so that it doesn’t come out of their pocket and negatively impact their bottom line (although employers do pay higher workers’ compensation premiums if insurers assess the workplace as giving rise to more claims then ought to occur.

5. Leave Your Emotions at the Door

Of course, if you do find yourself feeling guilty or anxious over lodging a claim for fear of losing your job, hours or rate of current rate pay, know that your employer cannot hold your claim against you under anti-discrimination laws and under workers’ compensation law itself — only in limited circumstances can an employer terminate your employment while you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits and you are unfit to work.

It is your right to seek compensation for an injury sustained at work.

When to Seek Legal Counsel

Some claims to do with workers’ compensation are inherently complex. As such, it may be in your best interest to seek personalised legal advice on the matter. Consider reaching out to us at Lewis Blyth and Hooper.

We are experienced in this area of the law and have decades of experience handling a wide variety of claims and claimants within Western Australia.

If you’ve been injured at work and would like to book an appointment to discuss your options moving forward, contact Steven Blyth, Partner on sblyth@lbandh.com.au.