In this podcast, Bourke Legal Associate Melissa Arndell answers the commonly asked question, “How Can an Injured Worker in NSW Afford Legal Advice?”
Injured Worker in NSW Afford Legal Advice
Dan: For many injured workers in New South Wales, when considering compensation, the first thing that often comes to mind is the cost of seeking legal advice. Well, today to discuss legal costs, I’m with Melissa Arndell, an associate at Bourke Legal. Mel, there is a perception that obtaining legal advice is expensive. How can injured workers actually afford legal advice?
Melissa: Dan, I have been told time and time again through many conversations with injured workers that the key reason that they don’t seek legal advice in relation to their injury is because they’re concerned about the cost involved. I understand that. You may be receiving a reduced income or no income at all. You have expenses to pay, perhaps a mortgage or rent, groceries, bills, expenses relating to your kids, and you could now have the added expense of medical treatment. What many injured workers don’t realise is that you don’t have to pay for legal advice associated with a worker’s compensation claim. I’ll say that one more time, you don’t have to pay for legal advice. In New South Wales, the Independent Review Office, or IRO for short, pays lawyers to provide advice to injured workers. This means that you are not out of pocket for speaking to a lawyer to find out where you stand after an injury.
Dan: So tell me about the Independent Review Office. What do they do?
Melissa: Sure. So IRO was established in 2012. It actually has quite a few functions. One of them is to create a body of approved lawyers who can provide advice about workers’ compensation cases. Another is attend to payment of all of the legal costs associated with this advice, what I was speaking about before. IRO also helps out with claims disputes, medical expenses not being paid, late payments of weekly benefits, insurers just not dealing with the claims, and IRO has the power and the willpower to give the insurers a bit of a kick when they don’t do what they should, and unfortunately, Dan, they do need a bit of a kick on occasion.
Dan: So what kind of advice and assistance can IRO actually fund?
Melissa: IRO will pay all the legal costs associated with getting proper advice about your claim. They will even give your lawyer funding from the outset to provide you with general workers compensation advice or help to lodge a claim form. If the insurer knocks back your claim for medical expenses or weekly benefits, IRO will fund your lawyer to contest the claim through the Personal Injury Commission. IRO will also pay all the legal costs for your lawyer to help you make a claim for lump sum compensation on your behalf. IRO will even fund clinical notes and reports from treating or independent doctors to support your claim. If it’s a reasonable expense, IRO is happy to pay for it.
Dan: Now, what can seeking this advice mean to an injured worker in New South Wales?
Melissa: Look, it can mean a whole lot, Dan. It might mean you receive weekly benefits of compensation, so you and your family can keep paying your bills while you focus on recovering. It might mean the insurer agrees to pay for physiotherapy, injections, psychology sessions, or even surgery that will help you get better. It might mean you receive a lump sum compensation payment for your injury. It might simply mean that you know you have someone else on your site who is fighting for you, and you don’t have to deal with the insurer alone.
Dan: So are you saying that an injured worker can just see a lawyer and not pay any legal fees for their workers’ compensation claim?
Melissa: Look, as always, Dan, there are a couple of exceptions. Firstly, you must seek advice from a lawyer that is recognised as an IRO approved lawyer. IRO has a list of approved lawyers on its website, and these are lawyers that IRO has determined have the specialist knowledge to advise you in relation to your workers’ compensation rights. As Bourke Legal specialises in personal injury, all of our lawyers are recognised as IRO approved lawyers, which means that our fees will be funded by IRO. Secondly, the other thing to just consider, some of you may have sustained a particularly serious injury that was caused by the negligence of your employer. These types of claims for damages, you may have heard them called common law or work injury damages claims are not funded by IRO. We will explain these legal fees, how these can be paid, and provide you with a detailed cost agreement if you are eligible and wish to pursue a damages claim.
Dan: So to sum up, what is your advice for an injured worker who is concerned about costs?
Melissa: Look, just jump on the IRO website. It’s www.iro.nsw.gov.au, and find an approved lawyer to assist you. You can then rest assured that you’ll receive expert advice about your workers’ compensation entitlements without paying any legal fees out of your own pocket. We understand this is a hard chapter in your life. We’ve assisted many people in similar situations, and from experience, we know it can really help to have a lawyer on your side assisting you to navigate this tough time.
Dan: Mel, thanks for joining me.
Melissa: Thanks very much, Dan.
Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Bourke Legal on 1-300-026-875.