Construction sites expose workers to a variety of hazards such as machinery, working from heights, chemicals, noise, dust and exposure to the elements, making them one of the most dangerous workplaces in Australia.
In fact, in 2016 there were 30 work related fatalities in the construction industry and a further 10 deaths before 22 May in 2017.
It is important that construction workers are aware of the risks associated with their workplace and understand their rights to compensation if they are injured.
Construction workers may be able to claim compensation for their injuries if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness. In order to claim under the Queensland Workers Compensation scheme, you must be considered a 'worker'.
For more information see: Who does WorkCover cover?
If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work.
If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.
Jeff is an apprentice carpenter. He is instructed by his employer to use a drop saw, which has no guard over the blade and which he has not been properly trained to use. While attempting to cut a piece of timber Jeff’s left finger is amputated by the blades of the saw. Jeff may be able to claim compensation from his employer since they failed to provide safe equipment and adequate training.
Rick suffers head and spinal injuries when he falls from the fifth storey of a multilevel building which is under construction. Rick’s employer has provided him with a harness which he is required to wear if he is working from a height however, he was not wearing it. Rick may not be able to claim compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he may be able to apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.
General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your injuries. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.
For example an injury causing quadriplegia has a rating of 75 to 100 and a monetary range of $232,600 to $349,400 whereas amputation of a finger is rated 5 to 20 with a monetary range of $6,950 to $36,250.
To diagnose and treat your injuries you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications and wear special braces apparatus. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Serious injuries may require surgery or other treatment requiring a hospital stay. Surgical or hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitation following an injury may involve physiotherapy, home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
If you suffer from a serious injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months. You can claim compensation for this lost income.
If your injury prevents you from working in the future to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Serious injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to as a result of an injury, you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.
In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.
Interest can generally be claimed on compensation for any ‘out of pocket’ expenses that are incurred before your claim is resolved.
In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury. Therefore, someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.
The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation.
However, depending on where your injury occurred and who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply which have their own time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to pursue your claim if you cannot provide sufficient reasons to the court as to why you delayed and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim.
Statutory worker’s compensation claims in Queensland must be filed within 6 months from the date of the accident or the date you become aware of your injury. If you intend to then sue your employer for negligence (otherwise known as a common law claim) you must request an assessment of permanent impairment from the workers’ compensation insurer within 2.5 years of the injury.
For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor before they turn 18.
In the case medical negligence claims, a parent or legal guardian of a minor must serve a Notice of Claim within 6 years of the day when the parent or guardian knew or ought to have known of the injury.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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