Changes to Workers’ Compensation in Queensland: you may now be eligible to make a claim
One of the key election platforms of the current Queensland Government was a promise to restore the rights of Queenslanders injured at work.
On 17 September 2015 that promise was kept when the Queensland Parliament passed the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2015 (the “Amendment Act”). The Amendment Act amends the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003.
Are the changes a good thing?
The short answer to this question is YES. The aim of the Amendment Act is to bring about positive changes to workers’ rights to compensation for work related injuries.
5% threshold removed for workers injured on or after 31 January 2015
Under the old legislation a worker injured in Queensland needed to demonstrate that they had a permanent injury that affected greater than 5% of their whole body function before they had an entitlement to seek damages at common law. That requirement has now been removed and there is no minimum whole body impairment threshold for seeking common law damages provided the injury occurred on or after 31 January 2015 (the date of the last Queensland State election).
Once your level of impairment is assessed you now have the option of either accepting a lump sum payment from your workers’ compensation insurer. If you do not want to accept the lump sum payment offered by the insurer then you are able to make a claim for damages for your injuries by making a common law claim (commencing Court proceedings).
What if I have already accepted an offer of compensation?
Unfortunately, if you have already accepted an offer from your workers’ compensation insurer for statutory lump sum compensation for your injuries and your claim has already been finalised you will not benefit from the provisions of the Amendment Act.
What about if I was injured before 31 January 2015
The removal of the 5% threshold only applies to workers injured on or after 31 January 2015. However, if you were injured during the period between 15 October 2013 and before 30 January 2015 then provided you meet certain conditions you may be entitled to some additional lump sum compensation.
If you fall into this group of workers we recommend that you seek legal advice before making any decision about your claim.
Special provisions for firefighters
Following an election promise to provide Queensland firefighters with more certainty about their workers’ compensation coverage for diseases that may have been caused by their employment the Amendment Act contains special provisions for firefighters who are diagnosed with one of 12 specified cancers. The types of cancers covered often do not show up until many years after the employment takes place and are referred to as “latent” cancers.
The Amendment Act covers permanent firefighters as well as part time auxiliary firefighters employed by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. It also covers volunteer firefighters and fire wardens who work with the Rural Fire Service Queensland. Depending on the particular type of cancer a qualifying employment period will apply. Provided the minimum period of employment has been met then the cancer will be deemed to be work related for the purpose of accessing workers’ compensation benefits unless WorkerCover is able to prove the cancer was not work related.
The provisions of the Amendment Act apply to all current firefighters as well as all former firefighters who contract one of the specified cancers on or after 15 July 2015.
If a firefighter dies as a result of contacting one of the specified work related cancers then his or her beneficiaries will also be able to access either the statutory lump sum benefits or to purse a claim for common law damages.
As there are certain requirements about the time of active service required in order to be covered by these provisions it is important to seek legal advice if you think you may have a claim.
Limits on what a prospective employer can find out about you
The introduction of the Amendment Act means that a prospective employer no longer has the right to obtain a copy of your workers’ compensation claims history.
The Amendment Act also makes parts of the claims process simpler and easier to understand. The aim of this part of the Amendment Act is to reduce the number of regulations and some of the paperwork that inevitably goes along with making a workers’ compensation claim which can only be a good thing for everyone involved.
It’s ok to ask for help
Being injured at work can often be a difficult and emotional time for many people. It can also be financially draining time for many individuals and their families. Hopefully, the changes introduced by the Amendment Act will assist in making this time a little less stressful. Knowing your rights and having someone who understands what is involved and how best to assist you in pursuing a claim for compensation is often a vital part of the recovery process both physically and mentally (not to mention financially).
If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us today and please ask about our No Win No Fee policy.
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