Farms have many of the same hazards as other industries such as machinery, chemicals, noise, dust, animals and exposure to the elements, however the combination of all these hazards in the context of farms rank them among the most dangerous workplaces in Australia.
In addition, farming has the highest proportion of self-employed workers meaning farm workers are not only subject to hard physical labour but also the stress and demands of running their own business. They also often work alone meaning they are isolated from help or first aid if an incident occurs.
It is important that workers in the agricultural industry are aware of the risks associated with farm environments and understand their rights to compensation if they are injured.
You may be able to claim compensation for a farming injury if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness.
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. This includes:
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 a farmhand for a grain producer and is working 16 hour shifts during the harvest season. He is tired after working 10 hours already and is instructed to use a grain harvester which he has not been properly trained to use. While attempting to clear a blockage, his arm is amputated by the blades of the machinery. Jeff may be able to claim compensation from his employer, since they failed to ensure safe systems of work. Rick suffers head and spinal injuries after rolling a quad bike.
Rick is properly trained and experienced in driving a quad bike and was provided with a helmet by his employer which he was not wearing. 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.
See also: WorkCover Claims
Unfortunately, many farm workers are self-employed and are therefore not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. If serious injuries are sustained, financial support may be available through income protection insurance or total permanent disability insurance if such policies have been purchased.
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.
Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.
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.
Find out how long WorkCover workers compensation payments last in Queensland & how typical timeframes to secure lump sum payments. QLD WorkCover experts.
Contact details for WorkCover Queensland including phone, post, fax and online. For new & existing claims.