Call for NSW workers’ compensation scheme to be scrapped

13th Aug 2020

The NSW scheme has been outed by injured workers for doctor shopping, denying legitimate claims, and agents delaying medical treatment – just a few of the unconscionable tactics being used. The recent media investigation which uncovered mismanagement of the state government-run workers’ compensation scheme in NSW, and unethical conduct in the Victoria scheme, is much-needed exposure that will hopefully drive a push to change the corrupt and ineffective schemes currently in place.

Our clients experience similar events on a daily basis. It is very distressing to our clients to have to deal with these issues on top of the serious interruption to their lives brought about by workplace injuries. They cop a ‘double whammy’ – dealing with the injury itself while also having to battle the insurance system.

icare is meant to support the long-term needs of those injured in the workplace to improve their quality of life and help people return to work. From what we see, icare does the complete opposite, denying valid claims and failing to provide much-needed medical care to those suffering from a workplace injury.

In Queensland, common law compensation for negligence includes a lump sum payment for damages in each of the following areas: general damages (pain and suffering); past and future treatment and rehabilitation costs; past and future paid care costs (for example, cleaners, gardeners, taxis, etc); past and future income loss (including interest and super); and other/lesser types of compensation.

In NSW, most workers are precluded from making a compensation claim for their losses in the first place. For those few that reach the 15% threshold to claim, their claims are then heavily restricted. Injured workers can only claim compensation for income loss.

The Queensland system is more collaborative between insurer and injured worker to ensure optimum outcomes. Appeals of incorrect decisions by workers’ compensation insurers are usually addressed readily and return to work numbers are higher.

Despite what NSW insurers say, the system is more adversarial between insurer and injured worker. Appeals of incorrect decisions by workers’ compensation insurers usually take unreasonably protracted lengths of time. Return to work rates continue to plunge yet employers’ premiums continue to rise.

Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme is a far better scheme than that of NSW. Anyone injured in both states knows first-hand how miserable NSW’s workers’ compensation is compared to Queensland’s (or just about anywhere else for that matter). I don’t wish to be too effusive in praising WorkCover Queensland. They have their issues with how they handle claims as well, however, it is clear that based on a comparison with other states, WorkCover Queensland is by far the best of a bad bunch.

My firm, Attwood Marshall Lawyers, is in the unique position of straddling the Queensland-NSW border and we therefore act for injured workers in both states. We regularly encounter the many disparities between each state’s compensation schemes and frequently call out the self-serving pleas by insurers for Queensland to change its compensation scheme to reflect that of NSW.

The problem is that insurers frequently lobby members of the government to make changes to the scheme that positively affect insurers and negatively affect injured Australians and their families. This is usually done by imposing unfair thresholds, reducing access to compensation, and decimating the entitlements of injured people. Insurers and politicians often bring in legislative amendments to the detriment of workers while pushing out stories to the media about allegedly frivolous or fraudulent claims, or excessive legal fees being the true cost to workers – both of which are demonstrably untrue.

NSW recently changed its CTP scheme to be more like NSW’s workers’ compensation scheme. This means that those injured on the roads in NSW are now far worse off and have less access to common law compensation for their injuries. Even now, wealthy insurance companies routinely lobby the Queensland government to change its workers’ compensation and CTP motor vehicle schemes to those of NSW – where insurers win and injured workers lose out.

If NSW is to have a sustainable, fair, workable, long-term workers’ compensation scheme, then the government needs to do what they consider unthinkable – copy the Queensland scheme. Insurers and employers in Queensland are far better off (not just the injured claimants) and the scheme is more profitable, efficient and sustainable.

A version of this article was first published on the Attwood Marshall Lawyers website here.

Jeremy Roche is a Partner at Attwood Marshall and a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist (Compensation Law Queensland) specialising in complex and catastrophic compensation claims.

Prior to commencing with Attwood Marshall Lawyers, Jeremy was employed for six years by a barrister at the Inns of Court in Brisbane where he gained invaluable experience at the ‘coalface’ of compensation law litigation. Following his admission as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2008, Jeremy joined Attwood Marshall’s expert compensation law team and currently has 17 years’ experience in the industry.

While he predominantly acts in Queensland compensation law claims, Jeremy is qualified in both Queensland and NSW compensation law, and represents clients on both sides of the border.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

Learn about how you can get involved and contribute an article

Tags: Compensation NSW Queensland Workers compensation Law reform