In this podcast, Bourke Legal Associate Melissa Arndell discusses how much can an injured worker receive from a workers’ compensation claim.
Intro: You’re listening to a Bourke Legal podcast.
Dan Toombs: One of the most commonly asked questions from people injured at work is, how much will I receive from a workers’ compensation claim? In this edition of the Bourke Legal podcast, I’m talking with compensation lawyer and Associate, Melissa Arndell about that very question.
Mel, you’ve told me that one of the key questions injured workers ask you is, “What compensation am I entitled to?” What do you say when someone asks you this?
Melissa Arndell: That’s right, Dan. It’s a fair question, given the predicament many of our clients find themselves in after they have been injured at work. I often start with a typical lawyer’s response, which is something like, every case is different, and it depends on your circumstances. But I do find that I can give clients some general advice about the compensation they may be entitled to that helps put them at ease. The main thing that will make a difference to the advice I provide an injured worker depends on whether they are classified as an exempt or a non-exempt worker.
DT: So in that context, what actually is an exempt and a non-exempt worker?
MA: It’s pretty simple. Exempt workers are police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. Any worker that does not fit into this category is a non-exempt worker. Depending on what category you fall into, your compensation may be calculated differently according to the workers’ compensation legislation that applies to you.
DT: Okay, so what general advice can you give exempt and non-exempt workers listening to this podcast about the compensation that they could potentially receive?
MA: The main types of compensation you may be entitled to include payment of weekly benefits whilst you’re unable to work, payment of medical expenses for treatment needed due to your injury, and also payment of lump-sum compensation for any permanent impairment you have sustained as a result of your injury. If a worker dies due to an injury sustained during their employment, their dependent family or their estate may be entitled to a lump-sum death benefit, funeral expenses, and a weekly payment for each dependent child.
DT: Mel, how about weekly benefits, medical expenses, and lump-sum compensation? Can you go through each of these?
MA: Yes, of course. I can give you a general guide, but as the workers’ compensation system in New South Wales is quite complex, I won’t be able to take you through every detail in this podcast. But generally, if you’re unable to work because of a work injury, you may be entitled to weekly payments of compensation.
For non-exempt workers, that is, anyone other than police officers, paramedics, and firefighters, you will receive 95% of your pre-injury average weekly earnings for the first 13 weeks after your injury. You’ll then receive 80% of your pre-injury average weekly earnings for weeks 14 to 130, which is up to two and a half years. You may continue to receive weekly compensation for up to five years if you remain unable to work, but will only continue to receive weekly benefits after five years, if you’re still unable to work and you have more than 20% whole person impairment, also known as WPI, arising from your injury, then I’ll talk to you a bit more about this in a moment.
For exempt workers, police officers, paramedics and firefighters, you will receive your full award rate for the first nine months after your injury. For the next seven years, you will receive a combination of payments that add up to a total of 75% of your award rate. After seven years, you’ll continue to receive weekly benefits at a reduced rate to the age of 68.
At the moment, an injured worker that is single would receive $545 per week, whilst an injured worker with a dependent spouse and three dependent children would receive over $1,000 per week.
Now, for both exempt and non-exempt workers, if you are receiving weekly benefits, you are also entitled to payment of your medical expenses, such as GP, physio, psychologist appointments, and even surgery.
And finally, all workers may be entitled to a tax-free lump-sum compensation payment if their injury has left them with permanent impairment. So for police officers, paramedics and firefighters, there is no Whole Person Impairment or WPI threshold you must meet to be entitled to this lump sum compensation for a physical injury. Even a 1% WPI will entitle you to between $1200 and $1,400, whilst 20% WPI would entitle an exempt worker to over $30,000. The exception is psychological injuries, where you must be assessed to have 15% WPI or greater.
Also, if an exempt worker is assessed to have WPI of 10% or more, you can bring a further compensation claim for pain and suffering arising from that injury.
For all other workers, you will only be entitled to lump-sum compensation if you have a physical injury which is assessed at more than 10% WPI, or again, a psychological injury of more than 15% WPI.
Having said this, the amount of compensation are generally higher for non-exempt workers. For example, a 20% WPI would entitle you to over $50,000.
DT: That’s pretty comprehensive. But is there any other compensation that we haven’t discussed that an injured worker should be aware of?
MA: Yeah, there is, Dan. All workers may be entitled to bring a work injury damages claim if they meet two criteria: your WPI must be over 15%, and you must be able to prove your injury was caused by the negligence of your employer.
A work injury damages claim can be worth a considerable sum of money in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars as it comprises of compensation for your past and future loss of wages and superannuation to retirement age. And again, this compensation is tax-free.
DT: So, to sum up, what’s your advice for an injured worker wanting to know what compensation might be available to them?
MA: Seek some legal advice from a lawyer that specialises in workers’ compensation. You won’t have to pay any legal fees for advice relating to most of the compensation we’ve discussed today. And it very well could put you in a much better financial position.
DT: Mel, now, if people do have specific questions, I can reach out to you at Bourke Legal?
MA: Absolutely. I’d be more than happy to hear from them.
DT: Mel, thanks for joining me.
MA: Not a problem. Thanks for your time, Dan.
Outro: Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Bourke Legal on 1300 026 875.