What qualifies as a work related injury under WorkCover?
What qualifies as a work related injury under the WorkCover system is an injury (or condition or illness) that is in some way related to your employment.
It can be an injury that occurred as a result of one event. Or, it could be an injury that occurred during the course of your employment over a period of time. A work related injury can also be an aggravation of a pre existing injury.
This page will explore the topic further.
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Injury that occurred as a result of one event
WorkCover in Victoria covers a wide range of injuries, conditions and illnesses.
If you suffer an injury at work and it occurred as a result of one incident, then it is possible that the injury will be considered to be a work related injury.
Let’s say that you work as a nurse and on a particular occasion you’re assisting a patient and you need to manually move the patient.
In doing so you injure your back. You had no back problems leading up to this incident.
This is an example of an injury that has occurred as a result of a single incident.
Injury that occurred over time (a ‘gradual process’ injury)
In addition to covering injuries that occur in one incident, WorkCover will cover injuries that occur over a period of time.
Let’s say that you work in a job that requires repetitive and sometimes heavy manual labour work.
After a number of months you notice that your left shoulder is getting worse and worse in terms of pain and restriction.
Your shoulder gets to the point where it impacts your ability to work.
This is an example of an injury that has occurred over a period of time. It is likely to be considered to be a work-related injury.
For the purposes of WorkCover, it doesn’t matter whether the injury occurred over a few days, a few weeks or months, or a few years.
Many people believe that if they have previously had an injury in the past to a part of their body, then if they aggravate that injury or make it worse in some way as a result of their work, that they can’t claim WorkCover.
This is not the case.
Many injuries that are the subject of WorkCover claims are for aggravation of pre-existing injuries.
Let’s say that you’ve had some previous back problems in the past.
For the sake of this example, lets assume that the previous back problems you’ve had are not related to your employment.
If in your current job you were to aggravate your back condition, even though the previous back condition is not related to employment, then it is possible that you’ll be able to claim WorkCover for the aggravation.
Fault and no fault
Victoria has both a fault and no fault based workers compensation scheme (WorkCover).
What this means is that some WorkCover entitlements are no fault based which means that you do not need to show fault on behalf of another party in order to claim.
On the other hand, part of the scheme is fault based. This means that in order to claim, you will need to show fault on behalf of another party.
The no fault entitlements are; weekly payments, medical expenses, impairment benefit lump sum.
The fault based entitlement is a common law claim.
For the sake of whether an injury qualifies as a work related injury, for the most part you need to be aware that fault is irrelevant.
To have a WorkCover claim accepted, you just need to show that the injury is related to your employment.
You do not need to show that someone else was at fault.
The fault on behalf of your employer or another worker or a piece of equipment is not relevant.
Let’s say that you were employed working in an office and that in order to get an item down from the top shelf of a cabinet, you decided to use a chair. Something your employer had specially told you not to do previously.
In doing so, the chair moved and you fell, causing you to break your wrist in the process.
In this instance, it would be difficult to say that the employer was negligent.
However, for the purposes of the Victorian WorkCover system, you are able to lodge a claim and it would likely be accepted.
You may in this instance have an entitlement to claim medical expenses, weekly payments and possibly an impairment benefit lump sum.
However, assuming that there is no negligence on behalf of another party, you would not succeed in a common law damages claim.
Severity of injury not relevant
The severity of an injury is not a relevant consideration when determining whether an injury qualifies as a work related injury.
You could have an injury that is a mild injury to your leg that subsides within a matter of weeks.
Another person could have a leg injury that leaves them with permanent injury and debilitating restriction.
The severity of the injury is not relevant to whether it is likely to be accepted as a work related injury or not.
What matters is that there is a connection between the injury and your employment, not the severity of the injury.
Any injuries or conditions that relate to your original injury can qualify as work related injuries.
Let’s say that you suffered injury to your arm in the form of a laceration.
This laceration occurs during your employment.
You see a specialist who performs an operation to repair the laceration.
In doing so, the surgeon inadvertently cuts a nerve causing sensory loss and numbness in your arm and hand.
For the purposes of a WorkCover claim, the initial laceration as well as the consequences of the operation would likely be considered work related injuries.
Another example would be if you have an injury that you suffered during your employment and you are required to take pain killing medication on a regular basis for the treatment of this injury.
Let’s say that you develop internal gastrointestinal problems as a result of taking this medication for a lengthy period of time.
These additional gastrointestinal problems may also be considered work related injuries/conditions for the purposes of WorkCover.
In order to have a WorkCover claim accepted in Victoria, you need to be a worker under the act.
Your employment needs to be connected to Victoria in some way.
And you need to have an injury (or condition or illness) that is related to your employment.
The types of injuries that WorkCover will cover are broader than many people think. WorkCover in Victoria will cover injuries that occur on one occasion or gradually over time.
Aggravation of pre existing injuries can be covered.
It’s important for people to realise that the severity of the injury is not relevant in whether or not an injury can be considered to be work related.
It’s also important that people understand that Victoria has a no fault and fault based workers compensation scheme.
In order for an injury to qualify as work related, it does not need to be caused by the fault of another party.