Workplace injuries can happen to anyone, and when they do, it’s crucial to understand your options for compensation. In Queensland, workers injured on the job have two avenues for seeking compensation: statutory workers’ compensation claims and common law claims for damages.  

Statutory Workers' Compensation Claims

Under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, all workers in Queensland are covered by the state’s workers’ compensation scheme. This scheme operates on a “no-fault” basis, meaning that establishing negligence on the part of your employer or a co-worker is not necessary to claim benefits. However, you must demonstrate that the injury occurred in the course of your employment and the employment was a significant contributing factor to the injury. 

Benefits under the statutory scheme can include compensation for: 

  • Loss of income due to the injury; 
  • Costs associated with medical treatment and rehabilitation; and 
  • Transportation and other expenses related to the injury. 

Once your injury stabilizes, a medical assessment may determine your degree of permanent impairment. If your impairment exceeds a certain threshold, WorkCover might offer you a lump sum compensation. If you accept this offer, you forfeit your right to make a common law claim. Conversely, pursuing a common law claim will cease statutory benefits. 

Common Law Claims for Damages

A common law claim, also known as a work injury damages claim, can only be considered after filing and having a statutory claim accepted by WorkCover. The critical distinction between the two types of claims is that a common law claim necessitates proving employer or co-worker negligence as the cause of your injury. 

This type of claim demands a higher burden of evidence to establish that unsafe work practices, faulty equipment, or negligence led to the injury. However, a successful damages claim can result in a significantly larger payout compared to a lump sum under workers’ compensation. 

A common law claim can cover: 

  • Pain and suffering; 
  • Lost wages and future loss of income; 
  • Past and future loss of superannuation; 
  • Treatment expenses not covered by WorkCover; and 
  • The cost of future treatment for your injuries. 

Initiating a common law claim begins with filing a notice of claim with WorkCover. They will investigate the injury, contacting your employer, previous employers, and medical specialists involved. WorkCover will then decide whether to accept liability. If accepted, mediation often ensues to negotiate a settlement that satisfies all parties. In cases where no agreement can be reached, a court trial may be necessary to resolve the claim. 

Time Limits

Another critical difference between statutory and common law claims is the time frames for filing. A statutory workers’ compensation claim must be made within 20 business days of the injury or, at the latest, within six months of the incident. In contrast, a common law claim must commence within three years of the injury. 

However, if an injured person receives a notice of assessment from the insurer, such as WorkCover, then they can bring forward a common law claim for damages within six months. Should a worker elect to disagree with the assessment provided by the insurer, an impairment score will be provided by a tribunal, after which a worker has six months to bring a common law claim. 

The Importance of Legal Advice

Navigating the compensation claims process, whether statutory or common law, is intricate and time-consuming. Deciding between accepting a lump sum under the statutory scheme or pursuing a common law claim based on employer or co-worker liability can be stressful. That’s where compensation law professionals come in. 

If you’ve been injured at work and this article raises questions, seeking guidance from experienced compensation lawyers is a prudent step. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for assistance with your work injury concerns. Your road to compensation starts with informed and skilled legal support. 

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