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The stigma of injury claims


Millions of people across the world insure themselves and their assets. Insurance is offered for all aspects of our lives from our cars and homes, our incomce and health, our work and vacations. If by some misfortune we need to claim on this insurance, we do so without a second thought. And if the insurance company disputes our claim, there will be public outcry.

Why then, is there such a negative stigma around people claiming insurance for personal injuries? The principle is the same. An insurance policy is taken out, premiums are paid and a loss is incurred that is covered by that policy. Yet, why are so many unwilling to make a claim?

Accidents in the workplace

Chris worked at a lumber yard for 10 years. His job involved cutting and putting together roof trusses and house frames. The National Code of Practice for Manual Handling states that “the risk of back injury increases significantly with objects above the range of 16-20kg.” Despite this, Chris was lifting loads of timber weighing up to 80kg every day. Not surprisingly, Chris eventually hurt his back and his employer made him redundant that very day.

Chris’ injury was so bad that he needed the help of a full-time carer. Initially, Chris decided not to make a compensation claim, as he wanted to return to work with the same employer once his back was fixed. He believed that he would never be employed if he made a claim. He was barely 30 years old and would never be able to work again.

Later, when he realised the extent of his injury, Chris tried to bring a claim against his employer and their insurer. The law requires a claim to be brought within three years and Chris was unable to get this extended. Chris’ losses would be in the millions over his lifetime. Instead of being able to support himself from the benefits received under the insurance his employer had paid for, he will now rely on Centrelink and Medicare for the remainder of his life.

Chris is not alone. Each year, thousands of Australians are injured simply from going to work. From 2000-2013, there were over one and a half million accepted claims for serious injuries at work across the country. Those people lost an average of 4.6 weeks from work and the injury cost them an average $6,846 (Safe Work Australia Statistics Report 2013-14).

Accidents on the roads

Injuries don’t just happen at work though. From 2006 to 2015, there were, on average, 6 816 claims in Queensland for injuries made as a result of car accidents. The average payment was approximately $98,000 with over $50,000 of that being for lost income (MAIC Statistical Information Report 1 January to 30 June 2016).

Gabby was travelling home with her husband James in a large 4WD vehicle when a car pulled out of a driveway and directly into their path. James had no time to react and collided with the car, causing it to roll over. Gabby suffered a whiplash injury to her neck and lower back, which unfortunately, did not go away.

Due to the severity of her injury, Gabby needed a lot of time off work to heal and her performance suffered when she was finally able to go back. She also developed a driving phobia and could only drive in familiar areas. She was unable to drive in heavy traffic or for extended periods of time, and was now a terrible passenger. It would take Gabby up to 30 minutes to calm down after being in a car.

Gabby made a claim for her injuries, which ended up settling for just over $50,000. She was able to get the medical help she required to alleviate her injuries and was able to buy a car with the latest safety features to help her regain her independence and get back on the roads.

Getting back to you

For most, making an injury claim is not about the money. People want their injuries fixed, the pain gone, their life back. Money won’t do that, but money will grant options such as surgery, physiotherapy and medication, tools and equipment to give you back your independence, a house cleaner or someone to mow the lawns, and time off work as needed – whilst keeping the family home, the pantry stocked and the kids at their weekly swimming classes.

 

This article also appears in the Lawyers Weekly.

Written by Shine Lawyers on March 6, 2017. Last modified: September 6, 2018.

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