Rehabilitation, recovery and return to work—the other side of the compensation coin
In personal injury circles there is a tendency to focus on compensation after an injury as a means of restoring injured people to, or as close as possible to, the position they would otherwise be in if not for the injury.
It has even been said that in some cases, injured people have been encouraged to avoid working as a means of inflating their injury claim. The theory being that if an injured person can show income of a certain amount prior to the incident and then a loss of that income after the incident they should be entitled to claim the full amount back and also claim an ongoing loss of income for an indeterminate time into the future. The reality however, is that this rarely occurs. Medical evidence, life style factors and even just a lack of motivation are often cited by insurance companies as a reason for not paying on this basis.
It means not only do these people suffer financially, they also lose the benefit of capitalising on services available to assist with their rehabilitation and return to work during the claim process, which will not be as readily available when the claim closes and they are left to continue with their lives.
Studies continually show the benefit to most individuals in returning to work following injury. Importantly it improves self-esteem, identity, social participation and networks, mental fortitude and views around self-worth. It is particularly important to more vulnerable people living in remote and regional locations and those who are already financially disadvantaged and limited in the type of work they can perform and are at risk of being marginalised further.
Being provided with appropriate rehabilitation has been shown not only to improve injury outcomes but also go as far as to improve general health, life expectancy and mental state. And this does not mean it decreases the value of your compensation claim or potential compensation claim.
When quantifying or valuing a claim insurers or Courts will examine medical evidence on the nature and extent of your claim as well as your ongoing limitations, work and lifestyle restrictions. This is determined by both objective or tangible means (like x-rays and tests) and subjective means (such as complaints of pain but measured with reference to tests designed to determine if these complaints are not genuine or are exaggerated).
In recent times, we have seen a widening of the gap between the objective evidence and pain perceptions. Some medical professionals advise this is triggered by psychosocial factors like feeling deserted, helpless and drifting – your once busy and purposeful world now revolves around your injury and constant reminders of the negative impact it is having on your life.
This does not mean the subjective factors and pain perception are not genuine, just that they are harder to quantify. In my experience, this ‘grey area’ is minimised when injured people have utilised available rehabilitation and honestly attempted to either return to work or reskill for alternative work. This does not mean they have to be successful in their attempts. Nor does it mean that all people will be able to return to some form of paid or unpaid employment after an accident. But utilising rehabilitation and return to work services shows a willingness to have a go, take it upon yourself to improve your situation and reflects positively on your character.
So what rehabilitation and return to work services are insurers required to provide?
Persons injured in a motor vehicle accident in Queensland are entitled to rehabilitation services which are reasonable. This will usually include access to doctors and other allied health professionals.
Rehabilitation is also offered to persons injured in workplace accidents, but the legislation in this area goes a step further and requires the appointment of a return to work co-ordinator. In practice, this means services aimed at modifying your work duties with your current employer so you can recover while at work, assisting you to locate an alternative employer and/or upskilling you through courses and practical assistance.
At Hughes and Lewis Legal we believe focussing only on the compensation side of your claim is a one-dimensional approach to the service that should be provided by compensation lawyers. Progressive law practices should be delivering a better holistic outcome to you and capitalising on all aspects of your claim. And better yet – this approach is not only good for you, it’s good for your claim.
To find out more contact us.
About the author
Belinda Hughes is a Director of Hughes and Lewis Legal