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Return to Work Plans

Compensation Lawyer – Return to Work Programs

For workers who are receiving compensation for work-related injuries, navigating a Return to Work Plan can be confusing.

This is often because of the number of stakeholders involved.

Insurers will usually arrange for a Return to Work Program to be prepared by a rehabilitation provider on their behalf in collaboration with the injured worker, the employer and the injured worker’s GP.  They must also consult with the worker in preparing an injury management plan.

The rehabilitation provider’s role includes coordinating the worker’s recovery with their return to work, identifying suitable employment opportunities aligned with their current working capacity and preparing the Return to Work plan. The plan must also outline the procedure for a requested change in rehabilitation provider, and how the worker will be told of this opportunity.

The employer must not dismiss an injured worker due to injury within 6 months of their incapacity. They are required (among other obligations) to implement the Return to Work Program, co-operate with the insurer, provide retraining or alternative job opportunities where appropriate and advise the worker that they can choose to nominate their own treating doctor.
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Do study hours count towards work capacity?

Workers Compensation Lawyer – Hours of work and study not to be aggregated in assessment of working capacity

A worker injured her elbow and wrist when she was employed by Aldi as a buying administration assistant. She had some time off work to recover from her injuries.

When she returned she was involved in a series of conflicts with her employer which led to a psychological injury. Her claim for this injury was denied on the basis that she did not suffer a psychological injury, or if she did, it was the result of reasonable action on the employer’s behalf with respect to performance appraisal and discipline.

The Arbitrator found in the worker’s favour, awarding weekly payments for a closed period and medical treatment expenses.

However the worker appealed the decision on two grounds.

First, that the Arbitrator erred in limiting her payments by one year short of what was claimed. This was conceded by the respondent.

The second issue raised on appeal was concerning the Arbitrator’s findings that the worker had capacity to work for 30 hours per week as a librarian, that work as a ‘librarian’ was reasonably accessible, and part-time online study was ‘in addition to’ her capacity to work.  The worker also argued that more consideration should have been given to treating doctors evidence.
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Medical Assessment Certificates

Workers Compensation Lawyer – How many Medical Assessment Certificates is a worker entitled to?

In a recent workers compensation case, the worker sought a Medical Assessment Certificate for the purpose of proving that she was a worker with high or highest needs (i.e. that she had greater than 20% whole person impairment or greater than 30% whole person impairment, respectively) and was therefore entitled to continuing weekly benefits after 260 weeks of workers compensation payments.

This followed a previous medical assessment and complying agreement received in January 2013 which confirmed her whole person impairment at 12%.  The complying agreement had subsequently enabled the worker to receive lump sum compensation.

The employer disputed the worker’s action on the basis that she was prevented by s 322A of the legislation from obtaining another Medical Assessment Certificate and by s 66(1A) from making a claim for further permanent impairment lump sum compensation.

The Arbitrator found in the worker’s favour.

Firstly, it was determined that s 66(1A) did not have any application in this case. That section only restricts multiple claims for permanent impairment compensation. It does not place any restriction on the number of medical assessments to be made.
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Care worker compensation

Compensation Lawyer – Breach for failure to train in manual handling

In a recent Queensland case the Plaintiff was a personal care worker who transported clients to and from medical appointments. One of the clients had a wheelie walker which the Plaintiff folded and placed in the boot of her car prior to driving the client to her appointment. When the Plaintiff tried to remove the wheelie walker, she experienced significant lower back pain and suffered personal injury.

The Plaintiff claimed that her employer had breached its duty of care in failing to provide training with regard to loading and unloading wheelie walkers. The Defendant argued that this activity was a simple and everyday task which did not require any training.

The employer’s manual handling guidelines referred to ‘appropriate manual handling techniques’ but did not specify what these techniques might be. Despite also advising that ‘adequate information, training and supervision’ should be undertaken, none was provided. There was a learning package provided to workers in relation to manual tasks and handling of people, but it included no specific instruction on how to manually handle wheelie walkers. The Court noted that wheelie walkers would be routinely handled in the course of such a care worker’s duties.
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Part 2: Things to know when making a workers compensation claim

Making a workers compensation claim might be important for your long term health and benefit, but at the time it can also be stressful and confusing. Knowing the facts, your rights and what to do next is the first step in resolving a difficult situation.

Continuing on from Part 1 of this article, below are a few things you should remember when considering making a workers compensation claim:

4.  The earlier you make your workers compensation claim, the better

It will ensure that you are provided with the time and resources for early treatment and quick recovery where possible.

Be aware that once you have made a claim, you may be sent for independent assessment by the insurer’s medical doctor, who will provide an opinion for insurance purposes rather than for treatment advice.

Continue to consult your treating doctors (medical expenses may be covered if your claim is successful) to ensure that you are doing all you can to fully recover from your injuries.
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Part 1: Things to know when making a workers compensation claim

Making a workers compensation claim might be important for your long term health and benefit, but at the time it can also be stressful and confusing. Knowing the facts, your rights and what to do next is the first step in resolving a difficult situation.

Below are few things to keep in mind when thinking about making a workers compensation claim:

1.  Giving an accurate and detailed account to your GP is crucial

When you see your GP for treatment of your injuries, they will record a history of the incident and details of your injuries.

In a workers compensation claim, this record is likely to be checked by the insurer as to the nature or cause of your injuries, so it is important this it is as accurate and detailed as possible.

If you need time off work because of your injuries, you should ask your doctor to complete a WorkCover certificate.

2.  Be careful about signing statements

A signed statement is a powerful piece of evidence in any compensation law claim. If you are asked to provide a statement to a WorkCover investigator, it is always best to read it, check it is correct and obtain advice from a compensation lawyer before signing it.
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