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Can I get a lump sum workers compensation payment?

Many people are aware, that if you hurt yourself at work, you will be covered for loss of income and payment of medical treatment expenses. They are less aware, that provisions exist for payment of lump sum compensation.

This was highlighted the other day, when I speaking to my best friend David, an Engineer. We have known each other for around 50 years and he knows little about injury compensation law, as do I about engineering. We were talking about an employee of his company, who fractured his wrist at work. David was aware of the employee’s entitlements to income payments and payment of treatment expenses.

I explained to David that under the Workers Compensation Scheme, the employee may also have an entitlement to a lump sum for permanent impairment. The employee does not need to prove any fault on the employer’s part to get this compensation. Whilst the rules of Workers Compensation Schemes differ from state to state, I explained David that in South Australia, if the employee is assessed as having a level of Whole Person Impairment of 5% or more, then the employee will be entitled to a lump sum. David was surprised to learn that if the injury was a psychiatric injury, then the scheme did not provide for a lump sum, even if the worker was left with a significant permanent impairment.

I explained that the assessment process was straightforward. The assessment of permanent impairment is organised by the Workers Compensation Claims Agent, or as in the case of David’s company, the company as Self-Insurer. I explained that the assessor needs to be accredited and the selection of the assessor is made by the worker, or more likely his legal representatives. The Claims Agent or employer (if self-insured) will first make sure that, what is known as ‘maximum medical improvement’ has occurred in respect to the work injury. Effectively this means the injury has stabilised or plateaued. The Claims Agent or employer, to get this clarification, may write to the workers treating doctor.

When satisfied that maximum medical improvement has occurred, an appointment will be arranged for the worker to attend, and the assessor will be provided with all relevant information. The assessor is required to use specific publications to rate the level of impairment. If the Assessment provides a level of impairment of 5% or more, a lump sum will be payable. This lump sum is classified as a payment for non-economic loss, otherwise loosely described as pain and suffering.

I also explained to David that the employee may also get a further lump sum payment, but this time classified as a payment for economic loss, which is worked out by a certain formula.

The amount of payment for each percentage point is indexed annually. For example, in a recent case I handled, which resulted in my client having a 5% level of impairment, my client was awarded a lump sum of $12,051 for non-economic loss and $4,443 for economic loss.

Finally, I explained to David, that the system, process, and entitlements that we just discussed, did not require any fault to be shown on the part of the employer, but in certain circumstances, where the employee’s injury is classified as a ’serious injury’, and the injury arose in circumstances where it could be shown that the employer was negligent, then further and more extensive lump sum benefits in the nature of common-law damages would be available. In other words, the employer, would be sued for negligence.

If you have received a decision in relation to your Workers’ Compensation Claim, that you want advice on, please contact an expert compensation lawyer here at LawCall for a no obligation initial free consultation.

Written by
Graeme Kirkham
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