Making a Claim for an Injury Now or Later? By Rod Draper

Workplace injury in any of its manifestations costs:

It costs the injured worker, in incapacity, socially, psychologically, physically and financially, and with relationships and quality of life notwithstanding. The cost to the employer is in downtime, lost productivity, socially and financially. It costs coworkers also on an emotional and social level and in terms of “covering” the workload.

Recent changes to the act in Queensland make it mandatory for an employer to report ALL injuries regardless of whether there is a claim for injury compensation made or not. This means that the employer and employee have bee recorded as having an injury, therefore, I believe, you should always make a claim on all injuries regardless on how much time you need to take off. Some employers disagree with that arguing, (correctly in most cases), that a claim will affect their premiums or they may think it’s only a “minor” injury requiring only a half day off, so it’s not worth reporting.

So, let’s look at a common “minor” injury. You’re at work and lift a 20 kg parcel, feel a slight twinge in your lower back and think nothing more of it. The next morning you can’t move, your back is stiff, and the pain is severe, you take the day off, the following day, you feel ok and return to work. No claim, just an incident report and everyone carries on.

Six months go by and one day you can’t get out of bed due to the pain, same place, same feeling, but worse. You attend the G.P, who sends you for an ultrasound, can see nothing, prescribes rest, physio and opiate pain medication. Pain persists, and you are referred for an MRI, then specialist intervention, diagnosis: prolapsed discs with nerve compression. Although you can trace the injury back to that incident that day and there was an incident report, your new claim is six months past the date of incident and therefore the injury is possibly seen as an aggravation of an existing injury. An aggravation claim has different rules, treatments, and capacity to an original injury claim.

Now that it’s an aggravation, you may not qualify for specialist treatment and be provided allied health only. The injury turns out to be so severe that you cannot return to your pre-injury occupation and will never earn anything like the same money elsewhere. You suffer chronic pain, loss of quality of life, can’t play with the kids any longer or go fishing, play sports, or drive more than 20 minutes between breaks. So now there’s a case for a permanent impairment settlement. So, it raises the question of what is the difference between a personal injury payment on aggravation of injury and the original injury scenario?

Even though this example above has plenty of holes in it, the point I make is, always make the claim, don’t use your sick leave for a work-related injury.

There is also the effect of chronic injury to consider. At some stage, usually around the third or fourth month off work with an injury, an injured worker will begin to experience some psychological symptoms: grief, loss of lifestyle, unknown future, financial distress, loss of workmates, flat mood, boredom, loss of libido and lethargy to name a few, this is the manifestation of a secondary psychological injury that may reside well after recovery from the original injury.

An injured worker with a chronic injury may be unlikely to recover entirely physically or mentally.

If you are experiencing a similar situation and would like to receive some holistic support and advocacy, please contact Rod via email: rod@injuryrehab.net.au

Rod Draper

Rod has an extensive background in construction with a degree in economics. And for the last 6 years he has worked as a rehab counsellor with a Masters in Rehab counselling.

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