For some workers, it is not immediately apparent whether they suffer a serious injury. Often an injury will be troublesome and cause some ongoing pain and restrictions, but it is uncertain whether it will meet the strict legal test of serious injury . As a worker only gets to apply for a serious injury once it is important that the claim is not made prematurely.
Adviceline Lawyers recently resolved a case for a young client, in his late 30's, who we had acted for over many years. He had initially injured his back at work lifting a heavy device in 2001. He had a short time off work and then despite some ongoing pain in his back, returned to normal duties. He continued on like this for many years. At times he would have flare ups of back pain that kept him out of work for a few weeks a time, but mostly he was able to manage things. However by 2010, his condition had deteriorated so badly that he required surgery to be performed to his back. He has since been able to return to work and therefore his claim was for pain and suffering only.
In advising him on his rights, we told him of the option to apply for a serious injury certificate at an earlier time, but we always felt concerned that due to his young age, his condition may worsen significantly. Sadly for him that is what happened. By having held off his claim, it meant that when he did proceed with it, he was able to get proper compensation for his all of his pain and suffering, including the need for surgery. He settled his claim this week for $160,000.
An injured worker has 6 years to lodge a serious injury claim in Victoria. As long as the worker's limitations period is protected, there should be no rush to lodge a serious injury claim - unless of course the worker wants to. Sadly for most workers, injuries frequently get worse over time and for the serious injury consequences to be fully apparent, it is often better not to rush these cases. This client's story is reminder of that.