If you have been injured at work or acquired an illness because of your employment, it is wise to seek prompt legal advice about worker's compensation to protect your rights.
Worker's compensation claims may be pursued at a state/territory level (under specific state/territory-based statutory compensation schemes) or under the Commonwealth Comcare worker's compensation scheme. The Comcare scheme will usually apply to the following workers:
Those workers employed by the Commonwealth Government;
Most ACT Government employees;
Those workers who are employed by companies who have a licence to be insured under the Comcare scheme (these are usually larger companies who have operations across all/most states and territories in Australia).
Most injured workers will be aware of what worker's compensation scheme applies to them, however, if you are not sure, you should ask your supervisor/person in management.
The Comcare scheme is referred to as a ‘long tail’ worker's compensation scheme. This means that provided an injured worker continues to be impacted by an ‘injury’ as defined in the relevant Act, they will be entitled to receive appropriate compensation for their work injury until they reach 67 years of age (in the majority of cases).
Both physical and psychological injuries (for example, stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD etc) are covered by the Comcare scheme). Different criteria, however, will usually apply, depending on whether the worker’s injury is:
an immediate physical injury;
an over-period-of-time physical injury;
the vast majority of psychological injuries or mental health conditions related to employment.
Lost wages (which will include lost base salary payments, regular overtime and other penalty payments – unfortunately, superannuation is not covered);
Rehabilitation and certain assistance type costs;
Certain travel costs (usually to and from medical appointments etc); and
Lump sum payments (if you meet certain ‘thresholds’ provided by the Act).
It is important to notify your supervisor or other relevant person at work as soon as possible about your work injury. You should do this as soon as you are injured or realise you have suffered a work injury/illness.
Preferably, notification should be given in writing. Some larger employers will have a specific form for you to complete (usually described as an ”incident notification form”, but if such a document isn’t available in your workplace, then make sure you notify the appropriate person both verbally then confirm it in writing (in a letter, email or a text message), and you should keep a copy of your notification (if you don’t have access to a photocopier, then take a picture of it with your phone!).
You need to notify the appropriate person of your injury, regardless of whether you plan on making a formal Comcare claim for compensation straight away.
To make an actual claim for worker's compensation under the Comcare scheme, you need to complete a “specific claim form”. If your employer is a self-insurer, then they will have their own compensation claim form. This form can usually be downloaded from the company website or internal system, but if you are uncertain, you should ask your supervisor or other appropriate person in management. If you are covered by Comcare Australia, you can download a claim from the Comcare Australia website here.
You will need to ask your GP or specialist to complete a medical certificate. While your doctor should be familiar with this process, take the time to clearly explain the nature of your injury to your doctor and check for yourself that the certificate records accurate details of the nature of your work injury. Doctors are human too, and sometimes, especially when they’re in a hurry, they can make mistakes just like the rest of us.
Keep a copy of all your forms or documents before submitting them to your employer when you lodge your Comcare worker's compensation claim. Keep a record of everything to do with your claim (again, if you can’t access a photocopier, then take pictures of all claim documents with your phone!)
There is no specific timeframe to make a claim under the Comcare scheme.
An injured worker is to make a claim ‘as soon as is reasonably practicable’. But again, don’t delay in either reporting your injury and then, if you’ve lost wages or incurred expenses because of your work injury, submit your actual application for Comcare compensation as soon as possible.
There is no timeframe for the employer (if they’re a self-insurer) or Comcare Australia to process your application for compensation. However, we suggest you allow about two to three weeks and if you haven’t received a response, call them to follow it up. If you have no success with following up on your claim, you should seek legal advice.
Cameron Hall has over 32 years of experience providing legal advice to injured workers covered by the Comcare scheme. He can advise you of your rights and all that you need to be aware of when making a claim or you need legal assistance because your claim has been rejected (or stopped too soon).