Over the last three years, there have been several changes to Queensland’s Workers’ Compensation laws.
This has unfortunately led to unnecessary complications for many. In this blog we will deal with one particular complication that arises if someone has multiple workplace injuries that are covered by the different laws that were in place at the time of the injury.
Which WorkCover law applies?
The first thing to note is that the Workers’ Compensation & Rehabilitation Act 2003 that was in effect at the date of your injury is the relevant legislation that will apply.
Effective from 15 October 2013, the Campbell Newman LNP Government made wide ranging changes to Queensland’s Workers’ Compensation law. One of the most fundamental changes they made was to introduce a minimum threshold that must be met before you are entitled to bring a Common Law Claim.
A Common Law Claim, in essence, is a claim for compensation for negligence which has caused your injuries in the workplace.
The threshold is you must be assessed with a 6% permanent impairment or more. In other words, a medical specialist for WorkCover Queensland must assess your injury with a 6% permanent impairment or more, before you have any right to bring a Common Law Claim.
When the Palaszczuk Labour Government got into power in Queensland in January 2015, they flagged that they would make substantial changes to the Workers’ Compensation laws in Queensland. In particular, they committed to taking the threshold requirement out altogether.
The Palaszczuk Labour Government passed the new Workers’ Compensation laws in Queensland in September 2015. However, some of the changes are effective from 31 January 2015 onwards.
What Happens if I Suffer Multiple Workplace Injuries?
If you were to suffer a workplace injury in, say, January 2014 and then another workplace injury in May 2015, then you would be in the unenviable position of being stuck between two separate versions of the Workers’ Compensation & Rehabilitation Act. This means you would in fact have to run two separate Workers’ Compensation claims.
Your first injury would come under the Newman LNP Government legislation. Your second injury would come under the Palaszczuk Labour Government legislation.
In effect, your first injury would have to be assessed with a permanent impairment of 6% or more for you to have any legal right whatsoever to start a Common Law Claim. Yet, for your second injury, you would be entitled to start a Common Law Claim regardless of what the permanent impairment was. This is, of course, subject to you being able to prove that your employer was negligent and this negligence caused your injury.
What Should I do if I am Injured at Work?
Because of this unnecessary mess that successive governments have left the Workers’ Compensation laws in, it is best to get legal advice as soon as possible after you have an injury at work.
Trying to navigate the legal system is hard enough without having complications of different laws applying for different injuries. To ensure your legal rights are fully protected, it is always best to talk to a lawyer. You may not need to engage a lawyer, however it is worthwhile at least talking to one to get an idea of what your legal rights are.