Questions and Answers
What should an injured worker discuss with their nominated treating doctor during the initial consultation?
It is important that injured workers communicate with the nominated treating doctor exactly how the injury occurred. All injuries sustained in the accident should be recorded even if they appear to be minor at the time as it is often the case that minor injuries turn out to be more significant than first thought and it is difficult to add additional injuries later. All of these injuries should then be recorded not only in the clinical notes but also on the certificate of capacity which should be issued by the nominated treating doctor and provided to the employer and insurer.
Injured workers should always check that the doctor has recorded all information on the certificate of capacity and that all information is correct, prior to leaving the consultation. Any incorrect information should be corrected immediately.
What should the nominated doctor consider when determining an injured workers capacity to work?
Nominated treating doctors are constantly under pressure to return injured workers to work as soon as possible.
Whilst the goal of the scheme is to return workers to work, doctors have a responsibility to ensure that a worker has the capacity to return to work in a safe and durable manner. In order to do this the doctor not only needs to be aware of the workers injury but must also have an understanding of the workers work environment and what their job entailed and what suitable duties will be provided if the worker is unable to return to their pre-injury duties.
If a doctor is unaware of the duties the worker will be required to perform there is a risk that the worker will return to work too soon and will sustain further injuries. For example there is a big difference between the duties a worker who has an office job will be required to perform compared to a retail worker or construction worker. The availability of suitable duties will also differ vastly within these positions. It is therefore important that the doctor is fully aware of the situation they are putting the worker in. The injured worker must clearly communicate with their doctor about their role and the nature of their work and the availability of suitable duties.
What is a secondary injury?
A secondary injury is an injury that arises after the initial injury and because of the initial injury. For example a worker may have a right shoulder injury but then their left shoulder is injured as a result of relying on it more to compensate for the original right shoulder injury. Another common secondary injury is the development of a psychological injury such as depression or anxiety as the injured worker struggles to come to terms with their injury and the impact it has on their life.
It is important that any secondary injuries be listed on the certificate of capacity and reported to the insurer. An injured worker should also seek a determination on liability for the secondary injury to ensure that they will be able to claim compensation for all injuries.
A secondary injury is not an injury that was sustained at the time of the accident but not detected until later.
Can a worker be compensated for a secondary injury?
A worker is entitled to receive weekly compensation and medical treatment for secondary injuries provided the insurer accepts liability for these injuries.
In respect to receiving a lump sum, a worker can be compensated for secondary physical injuries but not for a secondary psychological injury.