Now is a time for self care. In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many employees are out of work or working from home because employers have closed their doors – some indefinitely, some permanently.
Whether you are working from home or out of a job, Henry Carus + Associates sympathises. For more than 35 years, our firm has advocated for the rights of workers who are injured or become ill as a result of workplace accidents, and we are here to serve you in these challenging times.
The financial pressures of commercial closures are exacerbated if you suffered a previous work injury that already limits or makes it impossible for you to work. However, if you are confined to your home, now may be the time to start pursuing the compensation you deserve.
If you have been dealing with an injury you sustained at work but haven’t had time to pursue a WorkCover claim, this is a way to use your time at home wisely. If you need assistance, Henry Carus + Associates is here: 03 9001 1318.
How Long Do I Have to Pursue WorkCover Benefits?
If the injury happened recently and you haven’t reported it to your employer yet, you need to notify your employer of the incident as soon as possible. You may lose the right to compensation if you don’t report the work injury within 30 days.
Your workplace should have a register of injuries on file where you can record the details. But, if you are unable to enter your workplace due to your injury or because of closures related to coronavirus, submitting a report in writing is the next best option. Your employer is required to confirm receipt of your report.
If you were injured in a road accident in the course of your job duties, you must notify your employer and file a police report.
Apart from notifying your employer within 30 days, there is no strict timeline or statute of limitations on how long you have to file a WorkCover claim. However, to maximise the likelihood of receiving the benefits you deserve, it is in your best interest to act sooner rather than later.
Filing Your Workers Compensation Claim
Worker’s Injury Claim Form
WorkSafe Victoria oversees the distribution of benefits to injured workers in Victoria. To be eligible for WorkCover benefits, you will need to complete the Worker’s Injury Claim Form.
The form requires you to provide extensive details about your injury, what caused it, the terms of your employment, and more:
- Your condition and parts of the body affected
- What you were doing at the time of the accident
- Where you were in your workplace or away from your workplace when you sustained the injury
- If a road accident caused the injury:
- The police station where the accident report is on file
- Registration numbers for all vehicles involved in the accident
- When you first noticed the injury or condition
- When you reported the injury to your employer; if there was a delay, you will be asked to explain why
- Names and contact information for witnesses (coworkers, supervisors, bystanders, etc.)
- Your occupation
- Your employment status
- Number of hours per week you worked before the injury
- Pre-tax hourly rate and weekly earnings before getting hurt
- Names and contact details of doctors involved in your care
- ‘Light’ duties you are able to perform (if applicable)
You will then need to provide the completed form to your employer. Or, if this is not feasible, you can submit it to WorkSafe Victoria. Be sure to keep a copy for your own records.
Certificate of Capacity
Depending on the type of benefits you are pursuing, you will also need a Certificate of Capacity. This document is a record of your injuries or illness, and the impact your condition has on your ability to work.
This is not a form you complete yourself. Instead, you must visit a medical practitioner, such as one of the following, to receive the certificate:
- Your primary doctor
- A different general practitioner
- A surgeon
- A psychiatrist
A Certificate of Capacity may not be valid for the entire time you are out of work. The initial certificate is good for 14 days, after which you will need an updated certificate every 28 days. Subsequent certificates may be completed by the medical practitioners listed above, or by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or other professional.
To be eligible for weekly payments benefits, you must lodge the Certificate of Capacity and Worker’s Injury Claim Form with your employer (or with WorkSafe Victoria).
Reviewing Your Claim
Unfortunately, the next step is simply to wait. A WorkSafe Victoria agent will evaluate your claim and inform you if it has been accepted, rejected, or if your form is incomplete.
The claims review process generally takes 28 days. Unfortunately, that’s almost a full month without the pay you need for you and your family. While waiting to hear back on your claim, there may be steps you can take to avoid the financial strain stemming from your inability to work:
- If you feel up to it and the medical practitioner determines that you may return to work in a limited capacity, you can talk to your employer about possible options for alternative or light duty
- Discuss sick leave or paid annual leave options with your employer
- Apply for hardship concessions or benefits through Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services
However, if your employer has laid off employees or shut down the business, neither returning to work nor paid leave may be an option. And, with so many people impacted by the economic turmoil created by the coronavirus pandemic, public assistance benefits may be reduced and take longer to receive.
Common Law Work Injury Claims
As you recover from a work injury, turning the event over and over in your mind is inevitable. As you complete the paperwork for your WorkCover claim and keep thinking back to what happened, you might realize that somebody may be to blame for your injury.
WorkCover is a ‘no-fault’ scheme designed to eliminate questions of fault. It makes it possible for workers to receive compensation for their injuries without taking legal action, and it protects employers from lawsuits that may arise from injuries sustained due to the nature of the work, rather than negligence.
However, if a work injury does arise from someone’s negligence – whether it arises at your place of employment or someplace else – such as inadequate safety gear, defective equipment, or a coworker who is drunk on the job, the injured worker may be able to pursue compensation via a common law claim (one based on fault).
As with the majority of personal injury matters in Victoria, you have 6 years in which to file a common law claim for work injury. To be eligible for compensation in a common law action against your employer or another third party, you must demonstrate you have suffered “a serious injury” according to Victorian law. That is satisfied by one of two paths.
The first path is achieving an impairment assessment of 30 percent or more in the impairment benefit process. In that path, the WorkCover insurer or a self-insurer will be asking you to attend medical examinations with one or more independent medical examiners. The decision as to the level of impairment can be accepted or referred by the injured worker to the Medical Panel. Whether to refer or not is a decision that should be made with the advice of a firm that specializes in personal injury matters.
The other is by satisfying the narrative definition of a serious injury, which addresses a physical injury, a psychiatric injury, serious scarring or disfigurement, or the loss of a foetus.
If You Need Help with a Work Injury Claim, Contact Henry Carus + Associates
As you can see, WorkCover claims are often time-consuming and complicated. Injured workers may face significant hurdles to the benefits they need. Now coronavirus is creating major challenges to workers throughout Victoria, but you can use this time to take care of yourself and take the first steps toward the compensation you deserve for your work injury.
Clients often contact Henry Carus + Associates if their WorkCover claim is rejected, if they believe the doctor made was incorrect in evaluating their capacity, or if their benefits are insufficient. If you are facing difficulties with any aspect of the workers’ compensation claim process, we invite you to contact us anytime.
Our principal office is located in Melbourne, and we serve clients throughout Victoria. Members of our staff can correspond with you via phone, email, or live chat depending on your needs.