Know your rights: Don’t expect WorkCover to care

As stated in previous posts injured workers tend to walk into the trap of trusting employers, insurers and the system in general to take care of them in their time of need. WorkCover are supposedly there to protect your rights and ensure that you receive fair treatment. This is often far from the truth as the following article reveals.

WORK INJURY

If you think it could not happen to you, think again. Each year, tens of thousands of Australians suffer a work injury in their place of employment and often, they are just going about their daily routine. Whether you work with dangerous mechanical equipment, or whether your job is in a seemingly safe office environment, you never know when you could find yourself in a situation that might lead to temporary or permanent physical injury. The job situation may also be causing you serious stress, which could even lead to temporary psychiatric injury.

WorkCover is supposedly there to protect your rights as a person with a work injury. It is a system that claims to help injured employees obtain weekly payments and other benefits such as rehabilitation, medical expenses and lump sum compensation for the injury, including work injury damages where the injury has occurred as a result of the negligence on the part of the employer. But Rossana Court, Principal Solicitor with Newport Law in Newport on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, has just one thing to say, “Do not trust everything you are told by your employer or their workers compensation insurer when it comes to your work injury entitlements.”

“People who are injured at work should immediately go and speak with a solicitor that is experienced in workers compensation to work out what their rights are, and not be bullied by insurance companies to settle a claim early or to just let a claim go.” Rossana, who has been running Newport Law since 2008, explains. “Sometimes people who receive a work injury are pressured by insurance companies and their rehabilitation providers to basically get them back to work and get them off their ‘books’. Some injured workers are even pressured to resign from work. They should not do anything until they see a solicitor.”

Workers who receive a workplace injury often do not realise that they can challenge what they are being told by the insurance company through the Workers Compensation Commission. It would be heartening to believe the insurance companies have our best interests at heart, but that is not always the case. Sometimes it might not be practical or good for an injured person’s long-term health to return to work early, or at all! And no matter how nice your claims officer may seem, Rossana warns that there is often a catch.

“The insurance company has an agenda to limit the claim and try to get the worker rehabilitated and back to work sooner than necessary,” says Rossana. “The insurance companies will tell you, ‘We will look after you, we will sort out a rehabilitation plan for you and pay all your treatment and medical expenses’. And people just accept what the insurance company says, without questioning.”

The truth is, you are often at your most vulnerable after the shock of a workplace injury. It can be frustrating and the temptation to return to work after injury as soon as possible, especially if you are nearing retirement, worried about losing your job, or your employer, insurance company or WorkCover-allocated treating doctor are making you feel your injury is not serious enough to warrant taking further time off work. It can be overwhelming. But the fact is, you may be entitled to more financial assistance, both in the short and long term, than the insurers are offering you. And, like getting your injuries checked out by your own treating doctor, it’s incredibly important to get a second opinion.

“Certainly any worker that has been offered any lump sum compensation payment from the insurance company should go and seek legal advice first, to make sure it is in the right range,” says Rossana. “Also, workers are often not advised that they do not have to pay for legal advice. Ever. Legal fees are covered by the insurer, including the fees for obtaining medical reports.

“And if they have suffered a serious injury and they think the employer has done something wrong – that the employer has acted negligently and caused that injury – then the worker should definitely seek legal advice.”

Although the WorkCover NSW website offers workers who have received a work injury a do-it-yourself compensation option over the internet, Rossana repeats just one mantra, “Do not sign anything before you get proper legal advice!” And no matter how far down the road you are with your insurance company if you are yet to put pen to paper then it is never too late to seek that legal advice.

“It is a really complicated, complex system, the workers compensation system we have, and a lot of injured workers out there will try and do it on their own. It’s just tragic.” Rossana says, simply. “People, once they have received that letter from the insurance company saying ‘We are going to offer you this amount of money for your injury’, think that that is all they can get. Workers do not realise they can actually obtain their own independent medical assessment and, if necessary, dispute what the insurer is offering them. They just should not do anything until they get proper legal advice. And it is free, so there is really no excuse.”

Article by Rossana M Court – BA. LLB. from
Newport Law

  • John James Boyd

    Hi my name is John, I worked with people with disabilities. There was a guy I was looking after who was 150kg, they didn’t have a set procedure for getting him in the rear of the van. I ended up doing it myself and as a result suffered a back injury. I have tried to go back to work doing OHS jobs (FIFO but being on the plan in the one position has killed me. I would love to get back to work. What I’m worried about is that they may not keep paying me insurance seeing as though I tried to rejoin the workforce? Any suggestions are appreciated.

  • Patty Andrighetto

    Hi my name is patty and I fell over at work and injured my arm thay think Iay have injured the nerve in my arm the doctors whats me to have phyiso my work have not been helpful at all I have handed in my work certificates and a couple of bills it’s been four weeks now I went in to work today to getting claime number so I can go to phyiso but thay said we can not talk to u about anything because. U put in work cover certificate not mowing what the hell to do I ring work safe and she tell me there insurance laps in October I fell over in December so I ring the insurance thay had it with there been no claim and thay have not give me any paper work to fill I also asked for and incerdent report thay have not got very worried where to go about this any avice thank you

  • Hope

    It sounds like a back injury to me. I would go see your gp asap. If he suspects back pain he’ll recommend an MRI. They are expensive, so it really depends on you. Do you want to go on workcover or not? If you do, welcome to our nightmare (Always ring SIRA & check your rights, choose your own doctor, never believe the insurer, always get what they say in writing. They treat you really well in the first few weeks/months but know they are not for you no matter what they say and will turn on you at anytime). If you don’t, you can keep trooping on, hurting & damaging your body which is putting your entire future at risk, and be prepared to pay for all medical expenses and lose your job.

  • Donna Hoskin

    Hi I had an injury at work the insurance doctor said that the job wasn’t suitable for my anymore so my employer had to let me go. Am I entitled to a payout

    • Hope

      Hi Donna, YES you are absolutely entitled to weekly payments based on your previous annual income and the insurer also has to cover all medical bills, physios etc. The insurer is also obligated to help you find new work through a rehab provider of your own choosing. Ring SIRA (State Insurance Regulatory Authority). SIRA is your friend. They will tell you your rights and what you are entitled to. If the insurer argues with you quote SIRA. Put everything in writing (email). Don’t see an insurance doctor. You have the right to choose your own nominated treating doctor. I wish you all the best & hope you get better and return to work soon, take care!

      • Kevin John

        I have a very bizzare case. I have been off workcover for 2 years on normal duties. My GP however recommended to my old Branch Manager that i refrain from certain duties as that will aggravate my injury. My Manager agreed and all is great until now. I have been ordered by my Area Manager to do another IME yet I am not on workcover. He says and OHS says that this is a duty of care exam but i am not sure. My NEW Branch Manager is OVER satisfied with my performance and although I dont do certain duties I balance the scales by doing other shifts that no one wants to do. PLEASE HELP My Area Manager says that “I have no choice as per the Code of Conduct to abide to his instruction?

  • Nada Batori

    it might not be your back thats causing you arm pain…get your shoulders checked.seriously 🙂 Back pain can come from damaged/injured shoulders,i know because i have been going through it for a while now.

  • sam

    hi i just came to know that even having a legal advice dosnt work. my lawyer was doing a good job until we went for councilation . but i found something fishy. my lawyer just pressured me to sign the offer which is very low offered by insurer. how can he do that ? he never argued against it. AS a brain injured worker and become eplyptic my injuries are invicible. i had applied for a third party claim or a common law claim. but these people try to settle for a basic offer saying my imperment is less than 15 %. the doctor or speclist who examined me never told my injuries are bad. because i look normal from outside. due to my head injury my left eye got half blind, headace, 0.5% demensia, forgetfullness, poor understanding or concentration. and heaps of medications and side effects like asthama, joint pain, weight gain, trimbling, unstudyness, slured speech. and some other few side effects am going through. and the thing is its not just insurer but also my lawyer forcing me to work as normal like before. so its better to go court alone or with your own family and fight for your rights. their is nobody to help so called insurer or lawyer or doctor or work cover. (not all doctors or lawyers are bad as i mentioned here) learn about the rights and fight alone. POWER OF MONEY CAN CHANGE ANY THING OR ANYONE IN THIS SYSTEM.

  • Evelyn Geris

    Hello i have a question. I was in a car wreck 20 years ago and had back surgery .. I have pens and plates in my back and suffer from Musculoskeletal pain and suffer from standing on my feet for long period of time .I work for Shoppers food Warehouse for 24 years part time . I worked as a cashier for 15 years and it started killing my back from the standing in one spot and heavy lifting so i got certiified as a Pharmacy Tech. I now work in the pharmacy and have always work part time 6 hours a day NOw they are changing my hours to 8 hours a day and they know that i can not do it. I am in alot of pain .. The longer i stand the worse my pain gets. I told them that i can not work the 8 hour shifts thats why i am part time and they said that i had too .. Was wondering what my rights were because if i keep doing the 8 hours my back is going to give out and its too much pain for me. MY back and muscles are very sore .. Thanks for your help. I already been to the doctors years ago and they write me a note stating that i can not work more then 6 hour shift. My work is telling that if i can not do the 8 hours then they will find another tech and i will have to go back up front and cashier which is worse on my back because you are standing in one spot ..Can they do that. Can i lose my tech job because i can not work the 8 hours
    Please let me know

  • Nerissa Langdon

    Hi.
    I got injured at work in Feb of this year my claim was accepted with very little fuss. I have had 2 mri’s and a cortisone injection into my knee. I was orginally diagnosed with condral maltia patella and a fracture to my tibula. The fracture has since healed but the patella issue is still ugly and extremely painful. My surgeon is hesitant to perform an arthoscope as i appear to have developed complex regional pain syndrome so recommend i see a nerve specialist first. My case manager from the insurer contacted me today saying they want me to see an IME which I am not opposed to or anything as i am genuinely in extreme pain and figure another set of eyes on my files may come up with a better plan and i can begin to live a normal life again… the problem I am having is the fact the case manager made a point of saying the IME can also recommend to terminate may payments. Where do i stand with all this? Could they terminate my payment and leave me high and dry with an injury the limits my everyday life and makes even the smallest mobility tasks impossible or at the very least agonisingly painful? My doctors have said they will provide me with reports of their findings and recommendations of their treatment plans to show a timeline to a hopeful recovery, will this help or is it not worth the paper its written on? I am extremely concerned about my future and being a single mum with a daughter with a chronic auto immune disease, I rely on my income and worked extremely hard to get to the position i was in the workplace and now I’m barely mobile with an injury i don’t want and didn’t ask for… please help

  • Gary Steel

    Hurt my shoulder at work back in April this year, after seeing the doctor for approximately 2.5 months, I was put on a return to work program, this caused me more pain, at a further review the doctor ageeed that I would need to see a specialist, the specialist said my shoulder would heal without an operation.
    I had my op last Thursday. When I spoke to the surgeon on Friday he said he found more damage whichis wasn’t picked up my original scan, this second injury was more severe than the original one.
    Now I’ve had the operation I’m back to an estimated recovery of 6-12 months, I feel like the last four months have been a costly waste of time, and I operated in the beginning, I would now be well on my way to recovery.

    Gary Steel

    • Aldrin Barraquiel

      My sister has the same issue. She had injury on workplace and was put on return to work program after 6 weeks. Having sprained her ankle during the injury, she cannot work on normal duties in the retail because the job requires them to stand, serve customers and lift items in the stockroom whenever a customer decides to buy (Only display products are in the shopfloor). She has restricted capacity and though she follows it, her ankle hurts a lot after 4 hours of work. She went to GP and told the worsening condition, but the GP told her that she cannot make the work cover condition worse. I think it is very unfair and we don’t know what to do.

  • Brandon Gross

    I hurt my back in january 2015. Slipped on some ice on the floor while lifting a 20kg box in a warehourse.
    The first 3 months I could hardly walk and sitting was and still is the worst position. when i injured myself i was sent to the doctors straight away. mind you this was “work cover employed doctors” who told me to go back to work. after dealing with that group for 3 months i changed to my local GP who tried everything he could to try fix my back problem without needing an operation as its not a great idea to have one at 24.. after many specialist it turns out my back was no where near ok, joints were twisted and deteriorating and discs were collapsing which would require 2 operations. These operations will cost about $50,000 which my lawyer had put an application in for but work cover rejected it within the week. This operation is no joke i need it to happen the pain is there 24/7 and it gets to the point of not worth living anymore and this could all be changed if work cover actually gave a shit about me and others going through the same thing.. Being only 25 years old and 23 when i injured myself im now not entitled to any weekly payments (FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE) so if i had another accident in 30 years time I would be stuffed. oh and be very careful with your income insurance policy I learnt that the hard way.
    Summary:
    *Work cover system is a nightmare it will destroy you mentally while your going through any physical problems.
    *Choose your own doctor that you get along with and will help you and isnt in the work cover buddy system.
    *Get a lawyer involved who is a expert in workplace injury law.

    • sam

      its very difficult to trust anyone in this system the branches may be seen as individuals like doctors, compensation lawyers, expert withness and or work cover. but their root is called insurers who control all the branches.
      i had suffered a fall at work with brain injury and become eplyptic in 2010. still i going around lawyers, doctors. nobody to trust. only we have to do something to get a positive outcome.

  • Edith Young

    Hi all, quick question, why don’t employers like work cover claims. I see it as a way for them to keep themselves covered in case of an employee hurting themselves at work. No employee wants to be injured. Does it cost the employer anything except an excess and staff off work?

  • Kathy O’Brien

    I injured my knee at work I slipped and twisted it on slushy chips when sweeping product but it was just a twinge feeling so I rubbed it then went to my next position I had only half a hour to go I walked out got into my car was feeling ok it was that night in bed I was experiencing pain tossing and turning the next morning my knee was very painful but I went to work climbing stairs I couldn’t handle it anymore so I told my supervisor I need to go home it’s my knee so he told me to put my arm around his neck and he helped me down the stairs then up a flight of stairs to get my stuff and when he was walking me out I said to him I injured my knee years ago you were there he goes it wasn’t me then I said it must of been another supervisor he asked if I was ok to drive I said I think so the moral of this story is my right knee is severely damaged my cartlidge is stuffed and I have two tares requiring surgery the insurance doctor agreed it was caused through my injury as my doctor said the same MRI don’t lie but my supervisor did by saying it was my left knee what a lie I reported this hazard as a ohs to my supervisor nothing had been done until i injured my self now my claim has been rejected even when the insurance surgeon agreed to my injuries were caused through my injury

  • darren Donnelly

    I injured myself at work before i went off on leave due to my wife having a baby now i am getting workers comp and due to it effecting my time off to help with the baby do i lose my holidays still or does it go through workcover?

    • Lenny Burger

      If you are on worker’s comp, you should be getting all your wages paid as normal, regardless of if you were rostered as being on leave or not. Imagine if you had planned a holiday 6 months in advance and got injured just before that happened. How can the employer pay you annual leave while you are sitting in a hospital bed? Your medical certificate overrules any leave application, you are classified as injured and paid accordingly, just like if you get sick while on leave, you put in a sick form instead of taking holiday leave for that period. I’m not a lawyer, but this is the way I understand it.

  • Selam

    Greetings to you all dear injured friends, am so sorry to hear all these sad stories and incidents that have occurred to you all. It’s a confirmation on one hand that I am not alone but sad we have to go through all this all by our self untill it’s too late sometimes and lawyer’s have to be involved so late in the process. It’s an absolute Scam of a system that’s all I have to say which destroys people’s lives. Stay strong yall 👋🤗

  • sam

    I was injured in 2010 brain injury. Because I was injured very badly I couldn’t do a claim until my brain function got better almost after 3 years. And become eplyptic. From 2013 I had changed 1 lawyer but still I don’t see much changes .so as I experienced all this year’s. WA insurance company has carefully occupied most of the worker compensation lawyers and doctors. So it’s become more difficult for a injured worker to settle their case.