Tell me about it – what your lawyer needs to know

How to best prepare for that important first meeting with your compensation lawyer?

Regardless of your legal matter, it goes without saying that seeing a lawyer can be overwhelming and this is particularly the case for injured workers who are trying to manage lots of different and pressing things all at one time. In this podcast, Bourke Legal Director, Pania Watt, takes you through how to best prepare for that important first meeting with your compensation lawyer.


Dan: Regardless of your legal matter, it goes without saying that seeing a lawyer can be overwhelming. This is particularly the case for injured workers who are trying to manage lots of different and pressing things all at one time. Well, in today’s podcast, Bourke Legal legal director, Pania Watt, steps you through how to best prepare for that important first meeting with your compensation lawyer. Pania, you’ve got some tips for clients dealing with a claim for compensation, so I’ll hand it over to you to talk about that.

Pania: Thanks for that, Dan. So what I want to do in this podcast is to talk about the information that we as lawyers need to know from our clients, because I know it’s really difficult for our clients to know what’s important and what’s not. So let’s start with the really important and pretty basic stuff, your personal details. We have got to know ASAP if you change your phone number, change your email, you move house or you change your postal address, if you use a post office box, for example, and you’re probably thinking, yes, this is basic, this is really obvious, and it is.

But I’ve experienced needing to urgently contact a client and finding out that the mobile phone number I have on my file is out of date or it’s disconnected, or my client’s been locked out of their email address for whatever reason, and therefore they haven’t received the last two or three emails from me. That’s not helpful in terms of progressing your claim. We’ve got to stay on board with those information, all of that information, and it’s also important to note that your personal details, they include the big life events too.

So this means if you get married, if you separate, if you are divorced or if you fall pregnant or if you welcome a child to your family, we need to know that stuff. There’s plenty of reasons why we would need to know this information, and it depends on the type of claim that you have. But just as a matter of good housekeeping, it’s best to keep us in the loop with this type of personal information.

Dan: Okay, so you really need to keep your lawyer up to date with your personal details.

Pania: Yep, that’s the golden rule, and if we get a little more into the nitty gritty of a compensation claim, we need to know if you’ve had any other injuries to the same body part or if you’ve had any injuries or claims previously. It’s probably easier if I explain this with an example. Say you have an injury to your back and you come and see me to help you with your claim. I need to know if you’ve ever hurt your back previously, and I definitely need to know if you’ve made a claim for a back injury previously. This information is important not just so that we have a clear understanding of what your injury is, but also because failing to disclose information that’s relevant could be seen by a defendant as an issue with your credibility, and that means whether or not you should be believed. When you’re making a claim, a lot depends on your ability to be believed as an honest witness. So it’s really best to start as you mean to go on.

Dan: Pania, just to clarify, are you saying that you want your clients to tell you about other injuries they’ve had too, not just injuries to the same body part?

Pania: Yeah, Dan, that is the ideal situation. It’s important that we know our clients’ previous claims and injuries to any body part, so that we have a full history. Using, again, a different for example, if a client comes to me and they have a psychological injury, say PTSD, if that same client had a previous claim for compensation for a totally unrelated injury, say a lower back injury caused by a motor vehicle accident, that is information that’s relevant to what that person might be able to do for work in the future, and what I mean by that is that the work that a person with PTSD can do isn’t usually going to involve physical restrictions, like being unable to lift more than five kg. But if that same person has got a pre-existing back injury, then physical restrictions are going to be required and they would have been required prior to the PTSD condition being diagnosed. So all of this is relevant to working out what that client can claim in terms of damages for economic loss.

Dan: You’ve talked in other blogs about economic loss. It sounds like that’s pretty important.

Pania: Yeah, it is, Dan. Generally speaking, damages for future economic loss are going to be the biggest head of damage that a person who’s bringing a compensation claim can get. So it’s really important that this is done well. It’s probably beyond the scope of this particular podcast to get into damages and how they’re calculated. But perhaps, Dan, maybe you could put a couple of links in the episode notes to this podcast to our other blogs that are about damages.

Dan: Okay, wrapping this up, what are your final thoughts?

Pania: Well, keeping on calculating future economic loss another piece of information that’s really important to tell us is if you start working, even if you’re only doing volunteer work, that’s because when we’re calculating your future economic loss, it’s going to be impacted by this information. So if you’re unfit for work, the calculation of your future economic loss is going to be at the full rate, whatever that rate might be.

But if you managed to get back to work for, say, 10 hours a week, the calculation is going to be at the full rate less whatever you’re being paid for the work that you’re doing, and I want to clarify here that I don’t mean that you should call me and ask me if you can go back to work. That question is a question for your doctor, not your lawyer. If you feel able to work and your doctor agrees that you can, you should do it. Getting back to work is important for your recovery and for your mental health. So the takeaway here should be this: if you want to work, you can and you should just make sure that your doctor agrees and approves of the work that you’re going to be doing, and as your lawyers, we just need to be kept up to date with your return to work.

For example, whether it’s going well or not, and if it does go well, what you’re going to be earning from week to week, and I guess my final thought about this, Dan, is I know that dealing with lawyers isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. The legal process is confusing. It can be annoying, especially for a lot of our clients, where their compensation claim is their very first time instructing a lawyer, and what actually takes a person’s experience with their lawyer from good to great is communication. Great communication from both sides is the key to getting an outcome that everyone’s pleased with.

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Bourke Legal on 1300 026 875.