Injured workers in Queensland may finally have access to justice with the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.
This Bill was passed on 17 September 2015 and implements the Queensland Government’s election commitments for Restoring the Rights of Queenslanders Injured at Work. The amendments will take effect once the Bill receives assent.
The assent is simply a formality and normally takes between 1 and 2 weeks to occur.
This is great news for our clients and will mean that any injuries occurring on or after 31 January 2015 will not have to exceed the 5% WPI threshold.
The new law means that workers’ compensation claims arising on or after 31 January 2015 will no longer be subject to the over 5% Whole Person Impairment (WPI) threshold that an injured worker requires before they can pursue a claim against a negligent employer.
Besides reinstating common law rights for injured workers and providing additional compensation to workers affected by the common law threshold, the Bill also helps general workers by:
- Providing better legal coverage for fire fighters;
- Prohibiting prospective employers from continuing to access an individuals’ claims history; and
- Making other minor miscellaneous amendments to improve the day-to-day operation of Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme.
What used to happen before this Bill became law?
Many claimants who get into serious injuries from falls, head injuries, broken bones, lacerations, burns, repetitive stress injuries (RSI) or heat stroke may be subject to a medical examination organized by WorkCover to assess their degree of permanent impairment.
Unfortunately, these kinds of injuries are very common with workers in heavy construction and excavation occupations.
A very common problem that our clients experience from these medical exams is the ‘independent’ doctor opines that the continuing pain is from a pre-existing degenerative injury and that the workplace injury has sufficiently healed.
In other words, you were always suffering from aches and pains due to old age, your work injury made them worse, but the work injury has healed and you are back to how you ‘used to be.’
Imagine how this may apply to you. Prior to your accident, you had no complaints of pain or impairment while you were carrying on your job.
Suddenly, an accident occurs and you make a claim for workers compensation. During this process, you continue to be injured and feel pain.
But then you lose your right to workers compensation because an assessment doctor tells you that your injury continues because of something that may have happened years before in your medical records, or simply old age is the reason you continue to hurt.
Do you think this is fair? Thankfully the new law changes that.
Justice for Queensland Workers
Prior to this Bill becoming law, if your injury results in less than 6% whole person impairment, then you will not be allowed to sue your employer EVEN if it is their fault. Imagine how difficult an injured person’s life may be without access to that additional compensation for medical expenses, loss of wages, etc.
Unfortunately, we have had a number of client with serious injuries who have fallen short of the threshold amount. This has created a situation of extreme injustice.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees to reasonably protect them from any harm arising from their occupation. For heavy labour and higher risk occupations that our clients face, this duty of care is a legal right that is significantly important to the welfare of Queensland workers.
An employer who is found to be negligent for a work accident and injury may be sued for compensation including medical expenses, wage losses, pain and suffering, and other out of pocket expenses such as housekeeper costs, attendant care, etc.
This new change in the law once again gives workers access to claim for their workplace injuries.
Why Do We Need This Change for Injured Workers?
The removal of the greater than 5% permanent impairment threshold will provide much needed relief from workers who are stuck in the ‘limbo’ of the current system.
These are people whose injuries are still significant but are restricted due to an unfortunate technicality that robs them of justice.
This Bill also protects workers’ privacy by restricting access of an injured worker’s claim history from prospective employers.
The reason this change is required is not just to protect privacy, but to also prevent such information from prejudicing a worker’s future career prospects.
Do You Want to Know Your Worker Legal Rights?
Contact East Coast Injury Lawyers at 1300 720 544 or fill out our case review form. One of our accredited specialists in personal injury will help you learn your rights with a free initial consultation.