What to do if you injure yourself at work
Workers’ compensation is supposed to be accessible to everyone – which is why it can come as a shock just how technical the law gets – even lawyers get tripped up from time-to-time!
Here are just a few ways you can help protect your right to any weekly benefits, medical expenses and lump sum compensation that you may be entitled to.
Tell your employer and put in a claim
If you’re injured at work, you are required to tell your employer as soon as possible after the injury. This is a requirement under Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998 (the ‘1998 Act’). The 1998 Act also requires you to put in your claim for workers compensation within six months of becoming aware of the injury.
Tell a manager or a supervisor right away, preferably in writing. If you send an email, keep a copy. Give them the exact details of the injury including dates it occurred or emerged and describe how it happened in detail.
Most businesses will then have further forms to complete and will often provide a claim for compensation to fill in. If not, you can get this from the SIRA website here.
Don’t despair if you’ve missed these limits – there are some ways around these rules so still seek out legal advice – but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you are injured at work you should see a doctor immediately and ask them to complete a Certificate of Capacity accurately stating your capacity to work. If you are unable to work at all, the Certificate of Capacity should say so.
Certificates of Capacity should be provided to the workers compensation insurer handling your claim and you should include one with your claim for compensation.
You will need to get these certificates every month while you have a reduced or nil capacity to work, for as long as you have that reduced or nil capacity.
Some workers stop getting Certificates of Capacity after their claim is denied by the insurer – this can be a disaster! If your claim is approved at a later stage, you might not have enough evidence to your weekly benefits back-paid.
Keep getting those Certificates of Capacity every month, even if your claim is denied, and keep them in a safe place – or better yet, save an electronic copy and email it to your lawyer.
Sometimes claims hinge on evidence that you might not realise is important. Keep all letters, emails and text exchanges with employers. Make a diary note of all oral and phone conversations, and any daily events. Keep in touch with sympathetic witnesses. Keep a copy of all your correspondence with the workers compensation insurer. Keep all the reports and letters from doctors, even the ones you don’t understand. Keep everything.
You never know what might be decisive in a dispute – but at the very least, it helps lawyers to understand and argue your case when you can give us copies of all these things.
See the right doctors, early and often
The best evidence is from a treating doctor who is specialised in treating your injury. It is crucial to see a GP (your usual treating GP is best) immediately after the injury and see them often so they have a record of your injury and your recovery, but it is also important that you are referred to the correct specialist and see them regularly too.
It is important to make sure you see the medically-recommended specialist. For example, if you have a back injury, maybe a chiropractor helps to alleviate pain – but their opinion is no substitute for that of an orthopaedic specialist in the eyes of the law.
Make sure you treat all your injuries too. For example, if you claim that part of the reason you cannot work is because you have depression and anxiety, you are far more likely to be successful if you get your GP to put you on a mental health plan and you see a mental health specialist like a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
Read more about how doctors might affect your claim in this previous post.
If you voluntarily resign from your employment you might be ending your workers compensation entitlements too. It is different if you are terminated or made redundant, but always seek advice from a lawyer before resigning or taking an offer to leave – even if you are at retirement age, you may be entitled to (some) weekly benefits.
Look for work – if you can
For many of you with no capacity to work, this will not be possible. For some people, your injuries may mean that can no longer do some types of work – but you may lose your weekly benefits if you are able to do what’s called ‘suitable’ work.
For example, if you can’t do the manual labour job you have been doing, because you no longer have the ability to lift heavy weight, but you have the skills and experience to work in a clerical role, it may be worth seeking work in this area.
You might benefit from seeking alternate work for a few reasons:
- it is risky to rely on the workers’ compensation system for too long
- evidence suggests not working for long periods can harm your mental health
- there are legal limits on the time you can claim weekly benefits
- existing claims for compensation are more likely to settle if they are for ‘closed periods’ – ie. have a definite end date
In the writer’s opinion, the rules around ‘suitable work’ are grossly unfair, do not deal with the real needs of workers and need immediate reconsideration by parliament. See this previous blog post for more information.
Seek legal advice
Most important of all perhaps is that you don’t have to do all this on your own. If you’ve had a claim denied or you need advice about a work-related injury, please contact our experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Turner Freeman. We can usually investigate and challenge insurer decisions at no cost to you.