Many occupations are demanding on the worker’s upper body. The shoulder (one of the most complex joints in the body) is responsible for performing a wide range of on-the-job tasks. Unfortunately, repetitive motion and traumatic injury can reduce shoulder health and function, making it difficult for workers to do their jobs.
Depending on the severity of the injury or impairment of your shoulder, you may be entitled to a permanent impairment benefit through WorkCover. However, obtaining the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
If you have suffered a workplace shoulder injury or are struggling to receive the benefits you are due, the WorkCover lawyers at Henry Carus + Associates can help. Please call 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team serves clients in Melbourne and throughout VIC.
Types of Workplace Shoulder Injuries
Workers can suffer a wide range of shoulder injuries on the job, especially those in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, factory, retail, and other fields involving manual labour. Some of the most common occupational shoulder injuries include:
- Shoulder strain: Straining of the shoulder may occur through repetitive motion or excess pressure from carrying a heavy load.
- Shoulder sprain: Also known as a separated shoulder, this injury occurs when ligaments connecting the shoulder blade (scapula) and collarbone (clavicle) are torn.
- Torn rotator cuff: The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and ligaments that support and facilitate the movement of your arm and shoulder. Tears in the rotator cuff may occur due to sudden trauma (an acute injury) or as a result of wear through repetitive use over time.
- Shoulder impingement: As the rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or swell due to injury, they may become trapped between the bones in the shoulder. This is known as shoulder impingement, and it can lead to pain, weakness, and loss of mobility in the shoulder.
- Frozen shoulder: A shoulder can become frozen due to a thickening of the fluid-filled sac that encases the shoulder joint. People who have suffered previous injury to the shoulder or limited mobility of the arm are at a greater risk of developing frozen shoulder.
- Dislocated shoulder: Shoulder dislocation occurs when the upper arm bone (the humerus) becomes dislodged from the socket joint (known as the glenoid space). A similar injury, shoulder subluxation, occurs when the ball joint of the shoulder is partly displaced from the socket.
- Bone fractures in the shoulder: The shoulder is made up of the humerus, the clavicle, and the scapula. Breaks in one or more of these bones may limit the functionality and mobility of the shoulder.
Repeat injuries and untreated trauma can also result in shoulder instability, a chronic condition where the shoulder joint becomes overly lax and prone to subluxations and dislocations, particularly when performing actions above the head. Treatment for shoulder instability may range from physiotherapy to surgery.
Whether it is caused by trauma or progresses gradually, shoulder impairment can significantly impact your ability to work and your overall well-being. You may be entitled to WorkCover benefits for the medical expenses of treating your injury and weekly payments for lost wages. If the injury permanently impacts your ability to work, you may also be entitled to a one-time lump-sum permanent impairment benefit payment.
Disability Rating for Shoulder Injuries
WorkSafe Victoria specifically identifies “reduced shoulder movement” as an example of a permanent impairment. However, simply because WorkSafe recognises diminished use of the shoulder as a permanent impairment does not mean you will automatically qualify for an impairment benefit payment.
Rather, your eligibility for an impairment benefit is based on the disability rating for your injury. WorkSafe rates disability by the whole person impairment (WPI) percentage, a value that assesses the overall impairment of one or more injuries.
For physical injury WorkCover claims made on or after 10 December 2009, your WPI percentage must be 10 percent or higher to qualify for the permanent impairment benefit. If your work injury occurred or you filed a claim before this date, the WPI percentage threshold may vary.
How Is Disability Rated for Work-Related Shoulder Injuries?
First, your injury must be considered stabilised before you can be considered for a permanent impairment benefit. According to WorkSafe, an injury is considered stable “if its effects are not expected to change significantly over time or after further treatment.” Generally, you will have to wait at least 12 months for your shoulder injury to stabilise before you can file a claim for the permanent impairment benefit.
You will need to complete the Worker’s Claim for Impairment Benefits Form and submit it to your employer. Your employer has 10 days to complete its portion of the form and submit it to WorkSafe.
An impairment benefits specialist at WorkSafe will review your claim. You will need to undergo an Impairment Assessment, during which a specially trained doctor will evaluate your shoulder injury and assess the level of impairment.
The doctor will provide a report to your WorkSafe agent that assigns the level of impairment. The agent will use this report in determining whether or not you qualify for the permanent impairment benefit.
How Can a Work Injury Lawyer Help Me with My Permanent Impairment Claim?
You have the right to retain a lawyer when filing a claim for the permanent impairment benefit. It is in your best interest to contact a WorkCover lawyer before you file the claim. A lawyer experienced in workers’ compensation matters can provide you with knowledgeable guidance in completing the claim form.
Your lawyer will also act as a liaison with the WorkSafe agent, enabling you to focus on recovery. WorkSafe will provide your lawyer with a copy of the impairment assessment report, which your lawyer can share and review with you.
It is especially important to hire a lawyer if your impairment benefit claim is denied or you are dissatisfied with the calculated entitlement. A work injury lawyer can help you dispute WorkSafe’s decision. Your lawyer may be able to get your case referred to a medical panel, as well as discuss additional options for pursuing the benefits and compensation you deserve.
Contact Our WorkCover Injury Lawyers
At Henry Carus + Associates, we believe that You Deserve More. This principle drives our passionate representation of injured workers, many of whom struggle to be properly compensated for on-the-job injuries.
If you have suffered a shoulder injury that impacts your ability to work long-term, you may be entitled to a permanent impairment benefit. Henry Carus + Associates can help you pursue the full benefits and entitlements you deserve.
Please call 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our work injury lawyers serve clients in Melbourne and throughout Victoria.