The law in Queensland imposes strict time limits, referred to as limitation periods, within which a civil action must be commenced in court. Claimants must be aware of these statutory time frames, as a failure to comply with same may mean that you are unable to bring a claim for damages, even if it has merit. An often-cited rationale for the imposition of limitation periods is the principle that the administration of justice becomes less efficient the longer it takes for a matter to come before the courts.

Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld)

As a starting point and general rule, s 11 of the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld) imposes a three-year limitation period for actions in respect of personal injury. This includes dependency claims wherein damages are claimed in respect of injury resulting from the death of another person. Other time-limits are imposed by the governing legislation for a particular type of injury, particularly with respect to pre-court procedure. Below is a brief and non-exhaustive examination of the relevant limitation periods and other time limits for workers’ compensation claims. Note, however, that the determination of a limitation period for a claim for damages for personal injury is often fact-dependent, and therefore, claimants should seek timely legal advice on the issue.

Specific Time Limits for Workers’ Compensation Claims

Generally, a claim for damages made pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld), must be brought within three (3) years of the date of injury. Similarly, a dependency claim arising out of a workplace incident must also be brought within three (3) years of the date of injury. However, claimant’s should also be aware of the operation of s 235A of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld), which stipulates that for injuries sustained over a period of time in the workplace, such as repetitive strain injuries, the date of injury is taken to be the date on which the claimant first consulted a relevant health practitioner about the injury.

The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) imposes other timelimits in respect of pre-court proceedings that claimants should be aware of. Pursuant to s 131 of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld), an application for compensation must be made within six (6) months after the entitlement to compensation for the injury arises, generally being the date the workplace injury was sustained. Only limited circumstances permit a worker to make an application for compensation outside this period, such as a determination by a medical assessment tribunal that special circumstances of a medical nature exist.

Another time limit to consider is in relation to applications to the Workers’ Compensation Regulator. In the event that WorkCover Queensland, or a self -insurer, makes a decision that the claimant disagrees with, an application for review must generally be made to the Regulator within three (3) months. Other time limits may apply to claims governed by the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) and the above should not be considered an exhaustive list.

Extension of Limitation Period

There are certain circumstances in which the limitation period for a workers’ compensation claim will be extended beyond the general three (3) year period. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to: –

  1. If, before six (6) months before the end of the general limitation period, the relevant insurer issues a Notice of Assessment, a proceeding may be brought within six (6) months after the insurer gives a Notice of Assessment. Alternatively, If within six (6) months after the insurer gives the Notice of Assessment, and the claimant advises the insurer that they do not agree with the degree of permanent impairment contained therein, within six (6) months after a Medical Assessment Tribunal decides the degree of permanent impairment;  
  2. If, before the end of the general limitation period, the claimant asks the insurer to assess their degree of permanent impairment and the insurer has not yet provided a Notice of assessment, a proceeding may be brought within six (6) months after the insurer gives the Notice of Assessment, or a Medical Assessment Tribunal decides the disputed degree of permanent impairment; and 
  3. If, before the end of the general limitation period you lodged an application for compensation, which became the subject of review or appeal and the application had not been accepted, a proceeding may be brought within six (6) months are the application for compensation is accepted. Further, if, before the general time limit expires (i.e. within six (6) months after the application is accepted), the claimant asks the insurer to have the injury assessed but do not agree with the degree of permanent impairment, within six (6) months after the Medical Assessment Tribunal decides the degree of permanent impairment.

 

Conclusion

There are a number of time limits that may apply to a claim that is brought pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld). The implications of failing to act within these time limits can be disastrous for claimants. As such, it is important that claimants act swiftly, and obtain timely legal advice in the event that they wish to do so.    

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