WorkCover hearing loss claims in Victoria
If you have suffered hearing loss during the course of your employment, you may be entitled to claim WorkCover benefits in Victoria.
This page will explore WorkCover hearing loss claims in detail.
When did the hearing loss occur?
For the purposes of a WorkCover claim related to hearing loss, it doesn’t matter whether the hearing loss occurred recently, or whether it happened a number of years ago.
You will just need to show that you suffered hearing loss during a particular period of employment.
You do not need to still be employed by the employer you suffered hearing loss with
It also doesn’t matter that you are no longer employed with the particular employer with which you believe you suffered damage to your hearing.
Many people that pursue hearing loss claims have not worked with the employer with which they suffered hearing loss for many years.
They may have worked a number of jobs since.
It doesn’t matter for the purposes of having a WorkCover claim accepted.
What about the issue of negligence when it comes to hearing loss claims?
For the purposes of a WorkCover claim relating to hearing loss, negligence is not relevant.
All that you are required to show is that you suffered hearing loss related to a particular period of employment.
To have a WorkCover claim accepted, you do not need to show that the employer was negligent and that as a result of that negligence you suffered hearing loss.
Even if you somehow contributed to the hearing loss, you are able to lodge and have accepted a WorkCover claim in Victoria.
If, for example, the employer at the time had policies in place where you were required to wear hearing protection every day but you sometimes wore hearing protection and other times didn’t, this would not prevent you from having a WorkCover claim accepted.
How to lodge a WorkCover claim for hearing loss in Victoria
In order to initiate a WorkCover claim for hearing loss in Victoria, you need to complete and lodge the workers injury claim form.
On the claim form, you will need to list your details and the employer details with which you believe you suffered hearing loss.
You should specify the period during which you worked with the employer.
If you have seen an audiologist or another health practitioner in relation to your hearing loss, you should list their details.
Once the claim form has been completed, you need to sign and date it.
The form then needs to be lodged.
You can lodge the form by giving it to your employer who are then required to sign the employers section of the form.
A scenario that sometimes arises in relation to WorkCover hearing loss claims is that the employer is no longer in operation.
Hearing loss claims sometimes involve claiming hearing loss that occurred from many years ago.
If this is the case and your employer is no longer in operation, or you can’t locate them, or if you’re no longer employed by an employer, what you can do is contact the Victorian WorkCover authority and ask them where they’d like you to send the claim form.
Once the hearing loss claim has been lodged
The hearing loss claim will then need to be processed by the WorkCover insurer.
What they will do is they will send you an acknowledgement letter confirming that they have received your claim and that it is to be processed.
They will then organise an appointment for your hearing to be assessed by an independent medical examiner.
The cost of any assessment will be paid for by the insurer.
You can also lodge an impairment claim at the same time
In addition to the initial WorkCover claim form you can also lodge an impairment lump sum claim for your hearing loss at the same time.
You can read about WorkCover impairment claims here.
This is a lump sum claim whereby you’re seeking to be compensated for permanent impairment – in this case, your hearing loss.
It’s a good idea to lodge the impairment claim at the same time as the initial claim because when you see the person who assesses your hearing loss (usually an audiologist), rather than them just performing an assessment and providing an opinion in relation to your initial claim – that is, whether your hearing loss is related to your employment – they can also provide you with a whole person impairment rating related to your hearing loss.
This means that you will only need to see an IME once for both claims (generally speaking) whereas if you lodge the initial WorkCover claim and then down the track lodge the impairment claim, you would need to see an IME on two separate occasions.
Plus, in order to pursue an impairment claim your injury needs to be stable (in that it’s not getting any better, not getting any worse).
Your hearing loss is almost always stable so you may as well lodge the impairment claim at the time you lodge the initial claim rather than delaying things.
In relation to the IME hearing loss assessment
The IME will assess your hearing loss by performing some tests.
They’ll provide comment in a report as to whether they believe your hearing loss is related to your employment.
And they’ll determine your whole person impairment rating.
Their report will then get sent to the insurance company.
The insurance company will then send you a letter confirming that they accept or reject your initial WorkCover claim.
If you also lodged an impairment claim, they’ll also send you a letter called a notice of entitlement.
In this letter, they’ll outline what your whole person impairment rating is and what the corresponding compensation amount is that they’re prepared to pay you.
Here is where having a lawyer or an advisor who knows the WorkCover system well is important.
At this point you need to determine whether to accept the whole person impairment rating that relates to your hearing loss or alternatively reject the offer from the insurance company and proceed to the medical panel.
The appointment to attend the medical panel will generally occur within about a month or so after you elect to proceed to the medical panel.
The medical panel will assess you and provide an opinion as to your whole person impairment rating related to your hearing loss.
This whole person impairment rating may be the same as what the original IME assessed you at, or it may be less or more.
In most cases you’ll then be required to accept the whole person impairment rating after a medical panel assessment.
You can in some cases appeal a medical panel opinion relating to your whole person impairment rating, however it is not something that you can do just because you don’t like the opinion of the medical panel.
What about pursuing an impairment benefit claim for hearing loss in the future?
Lets say that ten years ago you resolved an impairment claim for hearing loss and you were paid an impairment benefit lump sum.
If you can show that since that time your hearing loss has deteriorated further because of noise exposure, it is possible to lodge a new impairment claim and obtain compensation for the further deterioration in your hearing loss if it is related to your employment.
The process for this new impairment claim would follow the process outlined above.
What about hearing aids and medical treatment?
Once you have lodged the initial WorkCover claim and it has been accepted, if you need medical treatment relating to your hearing loss – which includes the provision of hearing aids – then the WorkCover insurer will be responsible for payment of your treatment expenses.
If you wish to obtain payment for hearing aids from the WorkCover insurer, what you should do is ask your audiologist (or whoever is recommending that you have hearing aids) to put something in writing to the insurer requesting that you be provided with hearing aids.
Usually there should be no worries getting approval from the insurer.
But if there is you can lodge a request for conciliation.
The insurer will also be required to pay for any maintenance related to the hearing aids.
If you have suffered hearing loss related to your employment, you’re able to lodge a WorkCover claim in Victoria.
You can have that claim accepted even if you are no longer employed by the employer that you suffered the hearing loss with.
Even if you have worked a number of jobs since, you are still able to have your claim accepted.
You do not need to show that the employer was negligent in order to have the initial WorkCover claim for hearing loss accepted.
If your claim is accepted, you can be paid for the cost of any medical expenses which includes the purchase of hearing aids and maintenance of those hearing aids.
In addition to this, you can lodge an impairment lump sum claim relating to your hearing loss.