The Human Cost of the Broken WorkCover System

Workers' Compensation System Challenges in VIC

“I’m trying to get better and I have to fight for treatment.” These words from an injured worker are spoken early in a recent report by ABC’s Four Corners on the workers’ compensation system in Australia.

The Four Corners report, “Immoral and Unethical,” was broadcast earlier this week. It offers a shocking look at how injured workers are treated by the system.

Multiple injured workers share stories of delayed reimbursements for medical expenses, termination of benefits, denial of necessary medical treatments, and constant battles with the insurance companies involved in the workers’ compensation scheme. Some of these workers report intense depression and even attempted suicide due to the mental strain of being denied treatment and having their benefits terminated.

In several instances some injured workers have had their benefits reinstated after appearing before a medical panel but, by then, the immense physical, mental and emotional damage had already been done.

Profits Ahead of People

The early section of the report focuses on the stories of workers dealing with WorkSafe, the state authority that administers WorkCover in Victoria. Many workers who suffer debilitating injuries may be shocked to learn that the insurance companies are provided financial incentives for closing claims. In other words, the promise of money – not the state of a worker’s recovery – guides decisions about benefits.

“What we have certainly seen is the gaming of a system for financial incentives. There are a series of moments in time when there is an incentive for the agent to return that worker to work – they’re called ‘return-to-work’ incentives.”
– Deborah Glass, Victoria Ombudsman

Glass has conducted investigations of the WorkCover system in Victoria in both 2016 and 2019. These investigations have determined that insurance agents frequently “doctor-shop” in an effort to find medical evidence – any evidence – that will enable the agency to terminate a worker’s benefits.

Last year, Glass told The Age: “I said in 2016 these cases involve people’s lives, and the human cost should never be forgotten; that human cost continues to this day.” Glass also characterised some decisions concerning benefits for injured workers as “immoral and unethical.”

Our Clients’ Experience with the WorkCover System

Having served injured workers for decades, the lawyers at Henry Carus + Associates can attest to the immense toll the workers’ compensation system can take. Our practice covers all areas of personal injury law, but no claims carry the same frustration, misery, and destruction as those involving workers who are injured in their place of employment.

We have seen active, strong members of the working community reduced physically, mentally, and emotionally. As if being injured wasn’t bad enough, they are often provided no support and told that their request for legitimate support will not be honoured.

Our team is left in disbelief by the stories our clients tell us about their experience with the WorkCover system. In many cases, we provide much-needed emotional support in addition to legal counsel. We make it our mission to encourage strength and perseverance to our clients so they are able to continue on and obtain some level of support and compensation.

Sadly, some workers feel that they must accept what little WorkCover is willing to offer in order to get out of a system that treats them like a number on a file. By this point, their journey back to good health has already been upended.

Our Experience with the WorkCover System

As one interview participant notes in the Four Corners story, insurance agents involved in WorkCover never meet the workers whose cases they handle. They do, in some cases, interact with the lawyers hired by injured workers.

On watching “Immoral and Ethical,” our principal Henry Carus observed that:

“Over time I have developed a sense that those within the system are aware of what they are doing and continue to do so knowing that it will act as a deterrent to clients seeking support and fair compensation.”

Insurers seem oblivious to the cost of their unscrupulous practices. Denying treatment and delaying reimbursement and benefits takes a tremendous toll on injured workers, but it also increases the length of time an injured worker is unable to return to work. Thus, the workers’ compensation scheme suffers financially so individual agents can profit.

Because WorkCover claims often involve disputing multiple denials, underpayments, and delays, it is imperative to develop a legal strategy that strives to maximise benefits without subjecting our clients to disruptive proceedings that monopolise their time. Litigation is sometimes necessary to get workers the support and compensation they deserve.

Contact Our WorkCover Lawyers Today

If you have been hurt at work and you are struggling to navigate the workers’ compensation system, Henry Carus + Associates are here to help. You Deserve More, and our lawyers are committed to earning you the maximum compensation.

Please call 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Henry Carus + Associates serves clients in WorkCover claims in Melbourne and throughout Victoria.

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