Two years ago, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident on the way to work.
Recovering from the accident has been challenging in every way imaginable. Recovering, rehabilitating and rediscovering my new physical and emotional limits is an exhausting chore in itself – even with the most incredible support from my family, my friends and my workmates.
I had been dealing with workers’ compensation insurers through my work at Turner Freeman, but it didn’t prepare me for the experience of being a workers’ compensation claimant. Here are some things I experienced as a workers’ compensation claimant that you might find helpful.
Your general practitioner
While your claim is open, your GP is pivotal to the claims process.
- Make sure all claim injuries are noted on your work capacity certificate;
- Ask for all necessary referrals and make appointments as early as possible;
- Make the next appointment with your GP on the way out of each appointment for just before your current work capacity certificate expires;
- Keep copies of all work capacity certificates and provide copies to WorkCover and your employer.
Whether your injury is physical, psychological or a combination of both; your rehabilitation and recovery will involve specialists and allied health professionals. This may include orthopaedic specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists, exercise physiologists or osteopaths.
- Your GP can refer you to relevant specialists of your choice;
- Workers’ compensation insurers may choose not to fund alternative therapies such as acupuncture or treatments that are unlikely to improve your work related injury.
- If you or your GP suspect that you have suffered a psychological/psychiatric injury, request a referral to a psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis and treatment plan.
- A psychologist can provide treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement de-sensitising reprocessing (EMDR), but cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe medications.
- If you are unsure, talk with your doctor about whether early intervention therapies are appropriate to your recovery.
Return to work
Returning the worker to their pre-injury work as early, safely and to the maximum extent possible, is the key object of the workers’ compensation insurance scheme. What this looks like will be shaped by your circumstances, but it is worth starting these conversations early with your GP and employer. Some things worth considering in this respect are:
- A copy of your job description will assist your treating team to determine whether you have capacity to return to work and what your limitations might be in consideration of your injuries.
- Whether there are suitable duties;
- whether a graduated return to work is required;
- Whether there are aspects of your injury that could potentially increase the risk of injury to yourself or other workers; including tasks where medication or your injuries may have temporarily impaired your judgement or reaction times;
- Whether you will require modifications to your workspace to return to work.
A return to work plan, is exactly that – a plan. You won’t know your limitations until you try, therefore plans are reviewed regularly and updated accordingly.
It is important to keep in mind that claims advisors are not medically trained and work within frameworks and guidelines formulated from the workers’ compensation legislation and the insurers they work for.
- Keep your claims advisor up to date on your recovery (most of this information will be available via the work capacity certificate).
- If your claims advisor has questions, you can ask an appropriate person to clarify it for them. For example, a physiotherapist can provide an opinion on whether a physical injury is still improving with treatment;
- If you are struggling with the return to work plan your return to work co-ordinator, GP, psychologist or OT may be able to provide a further opinion around changes that might assist.
Independent medical examinations/degree of permanent impairment assessments
Once you are ‘stable and stationery’, that is, unlikely to improve with further treatment, the workers’ compensation insurer will refer you for a degree of permanent impairment assessment. This will be done via medical examination by an independent medical specialist.
- Wear comfortable clothing to the assessment so that any physical tests such as range of movement can be tested.
- If you are concerned about remembering key dates, medications, surgery dates or other important information, write these details down to take to your appointment;
- A psychiatric assessment conducted by an independent medical specialist can take up to 5 hours.
- If you have suffered a psychological/psychiatric appointment, you will be referred to an independent psychiatrist and the Medical Assessment Tribunal (MAT) for an assessment. The MAT is a panel of three doctors/psychiatrists who will be provided with a brief of medical information by the insurer. They will interview you for approximately one hour.
Notice of assessment
The permanent impairment caused by your injury will be assessed as a percentage and will inform the ‘Notice of Assessment’ which will be issued by the workers’ compensation insurer. The Notice of Assessment will include an offer of lump sum compensation if your degree of permanent impairment is more than 0%.
The Notice of Assessment represents the end of your workers’ compensation claim and any benefits you are still receiving will cease 20 days after the date of issue.
Get in touch with us
If your injury was caused by, or contributed to by your employers or some other party’s negligence, please seek an opinion about your potential entitlements BEFORE you accept a lump sum offer. Once the offer is accepted, any rights for further compensation arising from the injury may be extinguished.