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Queensland workers are exceedingly lucky to be protected under workers compensation law. In the vast majority of instances, this means that where a person unfortunately suffers an injury at work, that an insurance entity, usually WorkCover Queensland, steps in and provides a range of support.
WorkCover Queensland protects workers through paying weekly wages and funding rehabilitation in an effort to eventually return the injured worker to the work place, and this is often done through the use of gradual return to work programs.
Towards the end of your WorkCover claim, the injured worker is sent to permanent impairment assessment. This process includes an independent medico-legal examination by a doctors specialised in the area relevant to your injury. This doctor will ultimately provide a whole person impairment percentage.
Following this assessment, an injured worker receives a notice of assessment. In this notice of assessment, the whole person impairment percentage award by the doctor is used to calculate a lump sum payment from WorkCover, this equation is approximately $3,700.00 per percentage. WorkCover will then allow the worker to select to accept, reject or defer the offer. So, what decision should you make?
The decision with regards to the WorkCover lump sum must take into account the individual factors and circumstances of each person. However, accepting the lump sum will bar the injured worker from seeking further compensation and from pursuing a common law claim option.
If you believe the percentage award by the doctor does not accurately reflect your current state or injury, you have an option to be reassessed by another doctor for a permanent impairment reassessment with a different Medico-Legal doctor. However, when selecting a reassessment, you will forfeit the amount previously offered as a lump sum. Therefore, it is recommended to seek legal advice from a personal injury specialist lawyer prior to electing a reassessment, as even after a reassessment has taken place a lawyer may advise you take your matter to the Medical Assessments Tribunal.
An injured worker has 20 business days to disagree with a percentage of impairment provided on the notice of assessment from WorkCover.
While for many workers, the lump sum payment may be enough to get them back on their feet as they return to work. However, the money provided from this lump sum is assigned purely based on the injury itself, and does not account for any money the injured worker may have lost through reduced work capacity, out of pocket treatment expenses, and does not provide any allowance for future medical treatment or future financial loss, which can only be recuperated through a common law claim.
Declining the lump sum from WorkCover can allow the injured worker to pursue a common law claim. Common law claims operate on a fault based system, different to the WorkCover benefits and lump sum; meaning that in order to pursue damages under common law, the injured worker will need to prove that the work place acted negligently causing the injury to be sustained.
As a result, the decision to decline a lump sum should only be made after consultation with a personal injury lawyer, who will be able to advise on the workers prospects of success should they elect to decline the offer and do a common law claim.
However, if the injured worker receives a whole person impairment score of greater than 20% on a notice of assessment from WorkCover, that individual is entitled to both accept the WorkCover lump sum, and still pursue a common law claim.
This option is often significantly greater in terms of monetary benefit to the injured worker, as under common law claims the injured worker can seek an allowance for future medical treatment and future economic loss that reflects the reduced capacity the individual will have moving forward due to their injury.
Therefore, if you have been offered a lump sum from WorkCover, it is crucial that you seek independent legal advice from a personal injury lawyer who will be able to advise you on how you can maximise your compensation and best protect your rights.