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Work Accidents: Be wary of your Notice of Assessment

Work Accidents: Be Wary of Your Notice of Assessment.

Article by Townsville Lawyer, Ivan Baxter.

Senior Solicitor and Director of O’SheaDyer Solicitors Townsville.

26 August 2021.

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  • When you are injured at work, you have a statutory claim and possibly a common law claim for damages.
  • If your statutory claim has been accepted, towards the end of the claim process, once your injury has been assessed, you will receive a Notice of Assessment offering you a lump sum.
  • Do not accept the lump sum offered in a Notice of Assessment until you have obtained legal advice from an experienced lawyer, who works in Compensation Law.
  • You need to be very careful that you don’t disqualify yourself from bringing a common law claim for damages/compensation. Once you sign and send the Notice back, it’s too late.
  • See a lawyer before you sign and send the Notice of Assessment back.

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Statutory Claim

Usually, if a person is injured at work, the first thing they do is lodge a claim with WorkCover Queensland (or the self-insurer). This is referred to as a statutory claim. WorkCover Queensland, upon accepting the claim, will pay your wages while you cannot work and will also pay for treatment and rehabilitation.


Notice of Assessment

Towards the end of your statutory claim, you may still be experiencing ongoing symptoms or have ongoing issues and you are entitled to an assessment. At this stage, WorkCover should be arranging for you to be assessed for a permanent impairment or WPI – Whole Person Impairment.

If you have a physical injury, your assessment will be by a doctor. If you have a psychological injury, your assessment will be at a Medical Assessment Tribunal.

After your assessment, WorkCover Queensland (or your self-insured employer) will issue you a Notice of Assessment. This will contain an offer of a lump sum payment, based on your WPI – Whole Person Impairment.

The amount you are offered in this Notice, does not compensate you for your past and future losses. It is simply based upon your percentage impairment. You must bring a common law claim for damages in order to be compensated for your past and future losses.


Be Wary!

The issuing of this Notice of Assessment at the conclusion of your statutory claim is an important turning point in your claim.

If you accept the lump sum amount offered to you in the Notice of Assessment you will lose the right to pursue a claim for damages or compensation (this is referred to as a common law claim for damages).

Every injured worker should urgently obtain advice from a lawyer in relation to their legal rights at this time. Ideally, you should see an experienced lawyer who works in this field. Find a lawyer who will spend time with you to fully understand what has occurred, your injuries and your ongoing symptoms. The lawyer can then properly advise you in relation to the best steps to take moving forward.

It may be the case, you are entitled to a much greater amount than what is offered in the Notice of Assessment, and you should be bringing a common law claim for damages (ie. compensation for past and future losses). It is definitely worth your while to check this out with an experienced lawyer.


What if I don’t send the Notice of Assessment Back?

If you get a Notice of Assessment and don’t send it back within the 20 days, WorkCover regard this as you ‘deferring’ your decision. But you don’t need to worry about this. This simply means you have not accepted their offer. By not accepting their offer, you can still pursue a common law claim for damages.

The important thing to do in this situation, is to obtain legal advice from an experienced lawyer who works in this field.


What if I was not assessed for a WPI–Whole Person Impairment and I didn’t receive a Notice of Assessment?

Some people suffer an injury at work, lodge a statutory claim with WorkCover Queensland (or a self-insured employer) and towards the end of this statutory claim process, they are not assessed for a WPI – Whole Person Impairment and so didn’t receive a Notice of Assessment.

It is important you urgently obtain advice from a lawyer in relation to your legal rights. Every injured worker who has a statutory claim accepted, is entitled to be assessed and receive a Notice of Assessment. Usually, it is necessary to obtain a Notice of Assessment containing a WPI (Whole Person Impairment) to be able to bring a common law claim (should you decide to do so).

What if I received a Notice of Assessment and was assessed with a ‘0’ WPI-Whole Person Impairment?

Even if you have a ‘0’ assessment, you still have the right to pursue a common law claim for damages. As long as you don’t sign the Notice and send it back, you have the right to pursue a claim for damages.

The important thing to do in this situation, is to obtain legal advice from an experienced lawyer who works in this field.


Common Law Claim for Damages

Some injured workers who have suffered an injury at work are unable to return to work. Many injured workers who have suffered a serious injury, receive treatment and are able to return to work, either in their former position or to an alternative position (due to their ongoing symptoms and restrictions).

The concern that most injured workers have is their long-term ability to continue working while they continue to suffer pain and other restrictions in all areas of their life (ie, at work, in their recreational pursuits and with their domestic responsibilities at home).

If you are unable to return to work and even if you have returned to work, you are entitled to be assessed for a WPI–Whole Person Impairment and potentially, you also have the right to pursue a common law claim for damages.

All injured workers should obtain advice in relation to their legal rights to pursue a Common Law Claim for Damages.


Summary

If you have been injured at work (or on your way to/from work) and WorkCover Queensland (or your self-insured employer) is telling you they are considering finalising your statutory claim, they will likely send you a Notice of Assessment which offers you a lump sum amount.

Do not sign it and send it back until you have obtained legal advice from an experienced lawyer who works in personal injury law. What you do at this point in time is critical.

If you accept this lump sum, it will prevent you from being able to pursue a common law claim for damages/compensation.


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Ivan Baxter is a Townsville lawyer with over 30 years’ experience. He is the Director of OSheaDyer Solicitors Townsville. Ivan has experience in many areas of law including Wills + Estates, Family Law and Litigation. He now practices exclusively in Litigation managing compensation claims.

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