Workcover does not work and does not compensate

workcover-does-not-work

Workers’ compensation (aka workcover) was created for two primary purposes—to provide at least partial compensation for lost income and to pay for medical treatment and rehabilitation services for workers injured or made ill on the job. This approach seems to offer a good deal—if it only worked.

Unfortunately, the workers’ compensation system is extremely dysfunctional on multiple levels. One very serious problem is the harsh financial impact the system has on injured workers’ lives.

Workcover does not work and does not compensate

Another severely injured worker – who suffered injuries to both her wrists, shoulder and back in a workplace accident – wrote to us explaining how she is falling deeper and deeper into poverty. She can’t collect workcover benefits because the insurer doesn’t believe her injuries are permanent (so they cut her off her benefits after 130 weeks);  she is on the verge of selling her house. Spent about $18,000 on her credit cards, and  owes a friend $4,000.

“…Because the time since they (workcover) cut me off and now, this eat up all my savings and my credit…”;  “…at this point I have no income…”.

This injured worker now also suffers from major depression. She needs surgery on both her wrists and still can’t return to her former job.

Sadly, this injured worker’s situation is not uncommon.

These are injured workers who no longer qualify for workcover insurance benefits, but are unable to return to work because of their injuries.

Dumped onto the welfare system and forced to survive on a disability pension or Centrelink after they’ve exhausted all their personal financial resources and more.

“I feel like there are some criminals in the system that need to get out for crimes against injured workers” the injured worker wrote.

Like countless injured workers, she realised she didn’t know what the (workcover) system was about any more.“It’s certainly not about injured workers,” she said.

Fact is an injured worker simply cannot make a profit from workers’ compensation: Everyone who goes into the workcover system suffers some kind of loss, either because they stay on weekly payments for an extended period and the system says that those payments should be capped and reduced, or because overall there is a loss of earnings because they have not been able to return to work where they could have made (extra) money.

When first established, workers’ compensation legislation was framed as a trade-off: in exchange for giving up the right to sue their employers when injured on the job, injured workers would receive benefits including modest but reliable economic support.

The “modest” has often been minimal, and the “reliable” has become a cruel joke.

Injured workers still have no right to sue (unless extremely injured and able to prove negligence on the part of the employer – in some states) , but the “benefits” injured workers receive have been systematically reduced through anti-worker legislative reforms.

This perversion of justice leaves injured workers’ hands tied even in the most shocking cases, while at the same time failing to provide for their basic needs.

There are three basic issues that severely undermine the economic security the workcover system promises.

  1. The workcover system pays “benefits” only after (very) long delays. This is an intentional “starving out” or “gas-lighting”tactic aimed at pressurising injured workers loaded with massive out-of-pocket costs and desperate for funds to accept (much) less favourable settlements or -indeed- seek other means of support.
  2. Equally troubling, injured workers’ legitimate claims for benefits are often flatly and out-rightly denied.
  3. Even when injured workers obtain benefits, these are frequently totally inadequate to meet basic living needs.

It is grossly unfair and unforgivable that the workcover system places much of the financial burden of work injuries (and illnesses) on injured workers and their families. This makes workcover authorities and their agents (insurers) all too often the accomplice, if not direct perpetrator, in pushing injured workers into crippling financial hardship and insecurity. Countless injured workers report depleting their savings, sometimes taking out superannuation funds or even declaring bankruptcy in their efforts to survive

Many injured workers (we’re talking about seriously or long term injured workers) receive on average $400 to $600 a week. This translates into about $20,000 to $30,000 a year in salary replacement, which is below the poverty level for a family of three or four. Many workers can barely survive on this. Often they suffer the additional humiliation of being dependent on loans from friends and family. And for those injured workers receiving benefits at the lower end of the scale, or none (i.e. after 130 weeks), the situation is even worse.

Those who suffer debilitating injuries and are cut off workcover after 2 years, or even 5 years causes many of these injured workers, who may be suffering substantial and permanent earning losses, nowhere to turn when the “temporary” benefits end.

The system is skewed to primarily represent the interests of employers and the insurance companies, all the while ensuring that discussions on workers’ compensation and reform initiatives are focused on the cost of the system.

There is little doubt that the current workcover system is failing injured workers. Our workers’ compensation system treats injured workers as disposable commodities, rather than as human beings entitled to dignity and equality within our society.

We urgently need to start moving towards a system that better protects injured workers’ rights. We need to focus on human rights.

We know that countless injured workers are sinking deeper into poverty every day and we are very concerned about further reductions to injured workers’ benefits. And we can’t let that happen!

Every day, workers are injured. Some will never work again.
Does that mean that their lives should be over?

We have to fight for the restoration of a system that gives people a decent life and for a system that protects injured (and ill) workers in the workplace.

 

 

[Post by WCV and WCV3]



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11 Responses to “Workcover does not work and does not compensate”

  1. can my lawyer terminate a no win/no fee agreement and quit the case
    i did not accept an out of court settlement as it was realy low and after the lawyers costs
    there was very little if any compensation left for my common law serious injury
    i think they are baiting me by starting arguments and avoiding my calls
    my last conversation they upset me as i am frustrated with the progress of my case
    and they only seem interested in covering their costs ,i used a swear word in the conversation but it was not directed as an insult, just frustration but this is my personality
    they sent a letter warning that if i i continue to be like this they will no longer act on my behalf and made an appointment for a phone appointment which i awaited
    but they did not call and my my call register can confirm the call was never recieved
    so now i have another letter saying that i did not answer the call and if they dont here from me in 21 days that they will treat this as a termination
    i have rang to make another appointment and they say they rang me even confirming my contact number ( no call was recieved)
    i believe they are tring to walk away from the agreement and if so
    1- can they walk away / i think they are provoking me to dismiss them, but i am not falling into this trap
    2- if they terminate the contract what happens in regards to outstanding costs as i have a no win no fee agreement
    i wish i never went with this firm as i have had dramas with them from day 1
    and it has been going for more than 5 years with little progress towards a settlement cause they want me to settle for peanuts

    any advice and opinions would be welcome
    and i would like to know if any other victims have or are experiencing similar problems with their lawyers
    i would like to name and shame them but i am refraining from doing so as i am sure they would sue me for defamation
    also can they deal me out and do a deal with workcover to cover their costs ?

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  2. thanks Helper but i want to know about the lawyers responsibilities if they terminate the agreement and on what grounds they can terminate and what happens in regards to costs

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    • @Baboo – this will depend on the cost agreement you have with your lawyer/firm.
      You can contact the Legal Service Commissioner in your state, they have a website in every state and provide information.

      The basis of the relationship between you and your lawyer is called a retainer. A retainer is an agreement whereby you offer to pay the solicitor and the solicitor agrees to fulfil certain obligations. A retainer need not be in writing, although it is in both your and the lawyer’s interests if the essential terms are in writing. This may be part of a costs agreement.

      Under a retainer, the lawyer agrees to use all the relevant information to further your interests. The lawyer has authority to:

      act on your behalf;
      engage other people (eg, accountants, valuers or barristers) to do work on your behalf; and
      accept certain documents.

      However, a lawyer always needs to have clear instructions from you before doing any of these things. This may either be set out at the beginning in an agreement or by contacting you as things progress.

      You can terminate the retainer at any time, but there are limitations for lawyers. Generally, lawyers are retained to act for a client in a matter until it is completed and the client commits to pay for the services on an ongoing basis or when the matter is completed. If you terminate the retainer before the work is completed, you will be expected to pay for the work done up to that date, perhaps even where the lawyer has agreed to act on a no win/no fee basis. The lawyer has the right to retain your documents or other personal property until the costs are paid. This ‘lawyer’s right’ to retain your property until fees are paid is called a ‘lien’. If a lawyer terminates the retainer before the work is completed they will generally have to return your documents and will not be entitled to payment for work done, unless there is good cause.

      Good cause includes:

      if you did not provide funds to pay for expenses which the solicitor has had to pay on your behalf;
      if you request that the lawyer does something illegal or dishonourable;
      if you have demonstrated a serious loss of confidence in the lawyer;
      if you refuse to provide the lawyer with sufficient instructions; or
      if you refuse to accept and follow the lawyer’s advice.

      You will still be liable to pay for work done, if the solicitor has terminated the retainer with good cause.

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      workcovervictim3 March 28, 2014 at 7:15 pm
  3. Of general note is that there are some (very) unrealistic injured workers when it comes to accepting a settlement, they will often loose their cases and are ‘punished’ with having to pay the insurer’s legal costs as well. It’s very important you try to be realistic, no matter how angry and frustrated you may feel. The sad part is that settlements are often pathetic indeed. In Vic for example the average compo payout is $80,000. Compensation is also capped – in Vic it is currently around K450 and you need to put yourself on a scale with the most severely injured worker.e. a young quadriplegic, paralysed from the neck down, needing life long care.
    Your lawyers should have a good idea on what your case may be worth, based on experience. The pitfall is that if you refuse a settlement and it goes to court and the judge awards you less than 90% of the initial offer, you have to pay the other side’s legal costs!
    It can be extremely risky and difficult to determine what is reasonable.

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    • thanks workcover victim 3
      does a frustrating phone conversation
      where i have raised my voice and swore (f,, this im sick of you people f,,ing me)
      good cause for the lawyer to try and terminate my case ?

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      • @Baboo – mmh, difficult to say as it may be interpreted that you “have demonstrated a serious loss of confidence in the lawyer”. It may also be that there is a combination of issues, i.e. refusing lawyer’s advice with re to settlement offer.
        I think the best thing to do is to call the managing director of the firm and explain your concerns and frustration(s). Doing this usually helps quite a bit!

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        workcovervictim3 March 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm
      • Baboo, if you yelled and swore at me I would tell you to take your business elsewhere to.
        So an employer has a policy that won’t tolerate their employees being yelled and sworn at by customers. No arguments from me there.

        “but this is my personality”… I’ve heard blokes use this same justification for belting their missus to!!

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  4. I’m sorry admin but I must disagree with the heading because the whole workcover system it’s very very profitable, this is a multi billion marketing system!!!

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    Xchangingvictim March 29, 2014 at 4:36 pm
  5. Who else has had troubles with the centrelink following a workcover claim?

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