When your daily trek to work takes an unexpected turn due to an accident, it’s essential to understand your options. Jeremy Roche, Attwood Marshall Lawyers Compensation Law Partner and a QLD Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, explores how individuals can claim compensation for injuries sustained while travelling to, from or for work.
What is a journey claim?
Not all work-related injuries need to happen in your principal place of work for you to be eligible to claim workers’ compensation insurance. In Queensland, you can also claim compensation for an injury that occurs during your daily commute, whether you are behind the wheel, on foot, pedalling a bicycle or relying on public transport.
The critical requirement is that the event has occurred “in the course of employment,” including if you are injured while travelling to or from your place of work or commuting between worksites and offices for work purposes.
These claims are called “journey claims.”
Journey claims are complex, and if you have been injured in this type of scenario you should seek legal advice from professionals experienced in compensation law to help you navigate this complicated area.
Types of journey claims
There are several aspects to a journey claim, but the main thing to remember for eligibility is that your employment must significantly contribute to your injury. The injury must also have occurred during a commute while you were actively engaged in your work responsibilities.
Injuries can be sustained while:
- Travelling to and from work,
- Travelling between different worksites or offices,
- Travelling to or from training that relates to work,
- Travelling for work-related reasons (i.e. a conference or meeting, whether locally, interstate or internationally),
- Slipping or falling while waiting for public transportation to or from your workplace,
- Suffering an assault on your way to or from work, or
- In Queensland, travelling for medical or rehabilitation treatment that stems from an existing WorkCover claim.
There are strict criteria for making a journey claim. For instance, your claim will likely fail if you breach any laws. In the case of a road accident, that includes driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
You may not be covered if you started your journey after a significant delay or the accident occurred during some deviation from your usual route, such as running personal errands or non-work-related activities. There may be exceptions if the delay or deviation relates to your employment or is out of your control.
You also need to have left the boundary of your home, so any injury sustained at your residence will not be eligible for a journey claim (though if you were working from home, you could have a different WorkCover claim in Queensland.)
If successful in making a journey claim, you may be entitled to receive weekly compensation or a lump sum payment to help cover lost wages, medical expenses, rehabilitation costs and travel expenses related to your injury.
Motor Vehicle Accident Claims vs. WorkCover Journey Claims
If somebody else’s negligence caused the injuries you have sustained, there will be a separate insurance company that can step in to respond to a claim for negligence. That would include a public liability insurer for a slip and fall injury or public liability accident, or in the case of a motor vehicle accident, you may have the option of pursuing compensation under the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) scheme.
Motor vehicle compensation claims can include compensation for general damages, pain and suffering, loss of amenities, loss of income (including superannuation), medical treatment costs and the costs of aids and equipment, fees associated with employment services or return to work assistance, the cost of care you may need, and any home modifications that may be required to accommodate your injury.
Sometimes, a contribution towards your total legal costs associated with making the claim may also be rewarded.
In a journey claim, you receive weekly payments and medical treatment paid for by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer on a temporary basis until your injuries have stabilised. If you sustained any permanent impairment from your injuries, you may be offered a lump sum amount commensurate with your percentage impairment.
At that time, your workers’ compensation claim is closed and any future losses (income loss, treatment costs, etc) are yours to bear.
However, if you have a CTP claim for injuries you sustained in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver or vehicle, you can continue with a compensation claim against the relevant CTP insurer. Unlike the workers’ compensation statutory benefits scheme, which provides temporary access to weekly payments and medical treatment until your injuries stabilise, the CTP claim will cover your past and future losses suffered as a result of the motor accident (e.g. past and future income loss, past and future treatment costs, past and future paid and unpaid care and assistance, and similar). CTP insurers in Queensland cover your losses if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident because of a negligent driver or motor vehicle operator.
In NSW, workers no longer can claim statutory benefits by way of a “journey” claim as you can in Queensland, unless there is a “real and substantial connection between the worker’s employment and the motor accident”. This means that the employer must be responsible in some way for the accident occurring (e.g., a lack of vehicle maintenance, worker exhaustion from excessive hours, etc). Where a journey claim is not available, an injured worker may only pursue a CTP compensation claim for the motor vehicle accident if that claim is available to them.
Workers compensation death benefits
In workers’ compensation schemes, the dependents of a deceased worker may be eligible to receive compensation known as death benefits. These benefits are typically paid out to the surviving spouse, children, or other dependents of the deceased worker.
The amount and duration of these benefits can vary based on the individual circumstances of the matter, and where the accident happened.
When a fatality has occurred at work or during the worker’s journey to and from work, family members can make a claim for reasonable funeral expenses, a lump sum death benefit and periodic payments to the surviving spouse and the dependent children up to the age of 16.
Making a journey claim
As with all injuries and illnesses, you should always seek immediate medical attention for your injury. Being promptly examined is vital for your health and wellbeing and provides medical records that will help substantiate your claim come the time you are ready to submit your application.
With all work-related accidents including accidents that happen on the way to or from work, you must notify your employer immediately about any injuries sustained and complete an incident report outlining what happened. To strengthen your case, document as many accident details as possible – noting the incident’s date, time, location, circumstances, any witness accounts, CCTV footage or corroborating evidence.
Once you have received the necessary immediate support you need, you can proceed to initiate your compensation claim with the relevant insurer.
The specific steps you need to take might vary based on the state in which you’re making your claim.
Most employers in Queensland are insured by WorkCover Queensland and the remainder are self-insured. In Queensland, journey claims are covered by the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003.
Meanwhile, in New South Wales, journey claims fall under Section 10 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 which restricts journey claims to those where there is a real and substantial connection between the employment and the motor accident. The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is responsible for regulating the compensation system for NSW workers.
In any state or territory, obtaining legal advice as soon as possible is of paramount importance. A compensation lawyer can highlight crucial pieces of information you might not be aware of. Keep in mind that strict time limits are in place for both workers’ compensation and CPT claims. Being ready to present your claim with the utmost strength is essential to maximising your chances of a successful outcome.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping workers and their loved ones through difficult times
It’s not uncommon for employers and WorkCover to attempt to discourage injured workers from pursing compensation claims. However, if you have experienced an injury that has significantly affected your life, do not be discouraged. It is always best to seek your own legal assistance and advice as soon as possible to gain a clear understanding of your situation. Navigating the intricate system as an injured worker can be challenging without guidance, and individuals often miss out on their entitled benefits. We’re here to provide assistance and support throughout this process.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers offers a free case assessment to review your claim and explain what you can expect so that you know where you stand from the start.
Our compensation lawyers have the experience to take on the big insurance companies and advocate for the rights of workers and their loved ones, fighting to get the outcome needed.
We operate on a No Win, No Fee basis for all workers’ compensation claims and motor vehicle accident claims. For a confidential discussion about your circumstances, please call our Compensation Law Department on 1800 621 071 any time.
In Queensland, we have conveniently located offices across the Gold Coast at Robina Town Centre, Southport, and Coolangatta as well as in Brisbane City. If you live in New South Wales, we have offices in Sydney and Kingscliff, just across the QLD-NSW border.