Many injured workers we interact with want to know what their workcover case is worth. Perhaps not in the beginning of their workcover claim, but it is quite natural for (more seriously) injured workers to think about that and it almost always comes up. However, this is not the most important thing to think about. It is your health you should think about and foremost.
The most important thing in your workcover case is your health
The most important thing in your workcover claim/ case is by far your OWN health. You may be able to (eventually) settle your case for (hundreds of) thousands of dollars, but if you are now permanently brain damaged, paralysed, in constant severe pain, or seriously impaired or riddled with anxiety, PTSD, depression… what’s the good of that? AS any amount of (monetary) compensation will not restore your health or life as you once knew it. This is not to say that you don’t deserve to be fully compensated. But, as we have posted previously, many medical studies have also shown that if our work injury / illness is ‘compensable’, we often won’t have as good a health outcome as when we suffer the same injury/illness outside of the workers compensation system (and even the TAC system).
A couple of ‘golden rules’ to live by when you’re injured at work
Blow are a couple of very important “rules” to think of and, preferably, live by when you have been injured at work. These “rules” have been compiled by seriously injured / disabled workers who have managed to successfully overcome their disabilities within the bastardised workers compensation system. People who have taken active ‘control’ of their own health.
1. Listen to your doctor!
And we mean really listen. If your doctor(s) tell you to stretch, do it. If you aren’t supposed to go surfing anymore then just don’t. If your psychiatrist/psychologist tells you to go for a walk in the park every day, then do it.
2. Get a second opinion if your health / injury is not improving
As is the case in all professions, some doctors are not that good at their job. We’ve seen too many injured workers stick with a crappy doctor or surgeon because they assume that the doctor must know what he’s talking about. If you aren’t getting better, remember that this is your health and your life. Look around for other options. It doesn’t mean that you have to change doctors, but it may pay to have a second (and even third) opinion. Also, at least in Victoria, workcover will pay for a second opinion.
3. Think about your long term health, especially when it comes to settling your workcover case
This is very important. When you settle your workcover case, chances are that you’ll forgo (all or part) of your medical rights for that injury or illness for the rest of your life. If it’s anticipated that you might need future medical care, the workcover insurance company is supposed to cover your anticipated future medical needs. Never settle without discussing this.
You can still get the money you’d get from a settlement, but you must also look out for your health at the same time. So if 2-3 years from now you can’t move your arm or leg (and it’s related to an old work injury) you can get the workcover insurance company to pay for it. This is very important, especially because private health insurance will not pay for this treatment if they know that it’s from a work injury. So, please consult a good workers comp lawyer before any settlement!
4. Never settle your workcover case right after you stop your medical treatment
There is no real law on this, but we believe a good rule of thumb is to wait at least 3 to 6 months after you are finished with medical treatment to consider closing your workcover claim, and in doing so, in quite a few cases, closing out your medical entitlements. Once it’s done it’s done.
That is also why permanent impairment assessments are only undertaken at least 12 months after the date of your injury (in Vic). Your injury needs to be ‘stable and stationary’ – meaning that it won’t get worse by 3% WPI with or without treatment.
5. Make sure your treatment is with credible doctors
For example, chiropractors for the most part have no or little credibility when it comes to testifying in court. If you suffered a back injury that doesn’t resolve in a week or 2-3, you need to see an orthopedic doctor or a neuro (spinal) surgeon. If you have carpal tunnel, you should go to a hand surgeon. If you have a neck or head injury, you are best served by making an appointment with a neurologist. If you have a mental issue, see a psychiatrist (in addition to a Psychologist). If you suffer from chronic pain, visit a pain specialist. The chiropractor, a physio or your GP should be nothing more than an initial point of treatment (unless your injury is very minor of course). Needless to say that those doctors also need to be credible (good doctors).
6.Talk to your lawyer about your health
If you have concerns about your health, share them with your lawyer. If you aren’t feeling well, let it be known. Same with your doctor(s) and specialist(s). Keeping your mouth shut causes people , including the workcover insurer, to assume that you are fine and nothing is wrong with you.
Speak up and look out for your own health and life!
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