20 September 2021

Workers Compensation?

| little_spark
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A good friend of mine works for a government department here in Canberra which deals with people face to face daily.

Recently, she was involved in a nasty incident in the workplace. An object was thrown at her by a disgruntled member of the public, resulting in a trip to the hospital, a tetanus shot and 6 stitches to her face.

READ ALSO The best workers compensation lawyers in Canberra

The workplace has now upped security by placing glass around the work station meaning objects can no longer be thrown and she, along with other work collegues recieved counselling, but is this enough?

She isn’t sure if she would be entitled to anything (workers compensation?) and I don’t know where to send her. Legal Aid are unable to provide advice for this matter.

Can anybody offer any kind of advice? Anything would be appreciated.


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Get her to call CLAIMS on 1300 214 900 – the website is located at http://www.claims.com.au.

There is a bit of confusion here. A clear distinction needs to be made between workers comp payments (Comcare in the PS) and common law damages.

You are entitled to Comcare payments for losses arising out of an injury suffered in the course of your employment. You do not need to establish fault – if you are injured and it was during the course of your employment, you get it. It covers medicals, time off work etc, both from the direct incident (the attack eg the stitches and time off work) and consequential injuries (eg stress leave or counselling etc). The benefits you are entitled to are set by statute and may not be great at times and Comcare may want to control your medical treatement etc to some extent. However, you should not need a lawyer for this – it only becomes an issue if Comcare considers there is no link between the claim and work/the incident or if there is fraud etc. You don’t get a lump sum by way of compensation unless you have a significant permanent injury. The employer has some rehab obligations, for example if going back to the same job is difficult.

However, for common law damages you need to prove negligence (fault) on the part of the defendant. So, for example, negligence by the Dept in failing to take appropriate measures to protect staff. This is a question of fact and may be complicated. If you win you get the same payments as workers comp (expenses etc) plus damages for ‘pain and suffering’ and some other bits and pieces. You can also sue the assailant, but probably s/he will have no money so that is pointless.

Be careful because there are complexities involved if you are entitled to comcare but want to sue the Cth in common law. You need to have a minimum level of incapacity, for example. If you are thinking of a common law claim, then you need to see a lawyer/someone who knows what the consequences are. Don’t try to run a common law claim on your own (well, you can, but its like you probably wouldnt build your own house or put in your own filling).

The third potential is a victims of crime claim. Minimal money. Its a statutory scheme and there are various pre-requisites etc to being entitled.

(disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, if any comments are incorrect you get your money back)

pug206gti said :

Victims of crime in the ACT is a joke.

It’s not a joke its basically non-existent and a joke !!

You can get help from an advocacy group for dealing with that not-so-understanding entity called Comcare. The lady who used to do it, and was very, very good, has long left town. Adacus would know who does it now.

Hi sorry for your friend, she sounds as though she has post-tramatic-stress, maybe if it was a homicide, she would get $5o.ooo, i’m not sure.

If she works for a government department, the entitlements under the Comcare scheme are basic to put it mildly. Still, she’s obviously got some treatment.
If she is privately employed she may have some entitlement to a better lump sum, and by the sound of it, potentially common law damages too.
Victims of crime in the ACT is a joke. You might get offered some counselling or a massage.
Best get advice about it all. There are any number of firms in the ACT, if she wants to do anything, otherwise get on with life.

Does the dept have an employee assistance scheme? Many do and they can put you in contact with counsellors, legal advice etc, generally free at least for initial consultations.

Perhaps victims of crime compensation is the way to go? Look at the legislation and see – they have a unit that doesn’t charge, counselling, and I believe compensation of up to $50,000 depending on how serious the trauma (I may be wrong – may only apply to sexual assault, but worth checking out). Has the fellow been charged? Even if not, voc compensation can apply on a “balance of probabilities” basis.

Piratemonkey6:59 pm 15 Feb 10

Oh on the no win no pay lawyer front, you can usually go see them no worries but the second you sign something they own you.

Reading their paperwork I started to think I would need another lawyer just to make sure they wouldn’t screw me.

Piratemonkey6:55 pm 15 Feb 10

Be careful with those no win no pay type lawyers. Under some circumstances they can make you pay mega dollars.

I have been in a situation like this one and honestly if the workplace is that bad her best bet is to aim for paid stress leave and use that time to find another job in a different field.

I did similar. It is possible i would have got a huge payout but being stuck between lawyers and doctors for months if not years on end, is much worse then the incident.

As has been said tho, do not go anywhere near work without seeing a shrink and lawyer first. Even if she has gone back, pull sick days until advice from both has been gathered.

My final tip is take the shrinks advice over the lawyer. While the idea of a few hundred grand payout sounds nice, those who get it usually spend many years of their life in misery for it.

Oh and forget the employers HR. No matter how nice they are, their job is to limit the impact of the incident on the employer not you. If they get the chance they will screw her over.

AAhh, thanks little_spark. Similar thing happened to someone last week, but the guy slammed his fist on the desk, and one of those bell ringer things flew into the receptionists face and she ended up in hospital. Gosh there’s some awful people out there.

Your friend needs good legal advice and plenty of medical evidence/reports. Document everything.

little_spark5:21 pm 15 Feb 10

Hrm… I doubt it would be the same one Needhelp, she’s in Sydney.

I have told her to speak to her HR section first, try to get some Union details and to contact a ‘no win no fee’ solicitor. Hopefully this helps her.

I’m not sure if he’s been charged, she seems to think so but doesn’t know much about these sorts of things.

Thanks for all your advice.

Workers comp in Act and Federal gov departments is handled by another gov department; Comcare. Follow Linky http://www.comcare.gov.au/claims/making_a_claim

Dont call a lawyer, unless of course, you want to end up in court.

Dont call a union, i dont think they have a handle on reality.

I hope the government department in question has called the police and pressed charges against the person who did this.

grunge_hippy9:58 am 15 Feb 10

call the union (if she is in one) that’s what everyone does where i work.

I wonder if this is the incident I heard about last week. If so, I’m very surprised that given the nature of the business where she works, they haven’t provided her with legal advice. I heard the culprit slammed an item on the desk, and it then hit her in the face, but that could be Chinese whispers I suppose. Dunno. I hope she recovers.

She just needs to call a solicitor. First consultation is usually free in many cases, and they will be able to point her in the right direction.

little_spark9:34 am 15 Feb 10


Yes, the workplace has paid for everything so far. Although, there were next to no costs as she had private health insurance which picked up almost everything I think.

No on-going medical issues, she’s a healthy young woman who has mentally taken a beating from her position for the last little while and has pretty much had enough. This has really scarred her.

Permenant scarring would be determined once it heals… I also didn’t mention that she has lost feeling in part of her forehead (the object hit her face at such force that it bounced about a meter off it) so I guess it could be permenant if the feeling didn’t come back.

I think I will get her in to see one of those ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers just for some advice straight up. She’s thinking of quitting her job now because of all this.

And permanent scarring?

She would be entitled to workers compensation for the costs involved for the medical treatment she received and any follow up medical treatment. Did she fill in an accident/incident form? if so she can use that as the basis. She needs to talk to her HR/Injury area in personnel as there are forms to make claims for costs to comcare which is what she needs to do. But, given she had treatment at, I presume, the public hospital she isn’t out of pocket – but if she took days off on personal/sick leave she can get those reiumbursed.

Felix the Cat4:19 am 15 Feb 10

Presumably the government department paid for the hospital treatment and the person was paid for any time off related to the incident?

First of all, I think it is absolutely disgusting that your friend has been through what she has, and wish her all the best.

If your friend received treatment at hospital for her injuries, then the government dept. your friend works for should have completed an incident notification. Did the workplace pay for her medical treatment as well as provide counselling? If so, this can be seen as being a form of compensation.

Apologies for the all the questions, but does she have ongoing medical issues? A “workers compensation” claim isn’t always a given, nor does it automatically mean a tv-style lump sum payout. If she requires ongoing medical treatment/support, then by all means she may indeed be entitled to some additional form of ongoing compensation/treatment. If she had any time off work for her injuries/after the incident, then I think there should already be a compensation claim in place.

I guess it depends on what you mean my workers compensation. Your friend should be approaching her OHS/case management team to discuss her options/ongoing issues, or she could perhaps even contact Comcare to seek some advice. If she’s not comfortable in doing that, then perhaps she could approach her GP to discuss her ongoing issues.

Going down a path of seeking legal intervention, however, would be premature if she has not gone through all appropriate avenues first, and it doesn’t sound as if her workplace has refused to provide support (though I could be wrong here – understandably, there is not a lot of detail in the original post)

tell her to ring the legal section of her department – i’m sure someone there will steer her in the right direction (or call one of those ‘no win, no pay’ law firms and get a read on whether there is something to pursue, then go see some real solicitors…)

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