Posted December 10, 2014

How much does 5% impairment affect a person?

Changes to Queensland Workers Compensation Laws – Introduction of 5% Impairment Thresholds – How much does 5% impairment affect a person?

In October 2013, The Queensland Government introduced amendments to the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 that placed significant restrictions upon workers entitlement to seek compensation.

The most significant amendments saw the introduction of 5% thresholds.  For a worker who suffers a workplace injury after 13 October 2013, if the workers injury is assessed by a workcover doctor as falling below 5% whole person impairment, the worker is unable to access compensation for future loss of income and other types of compensation.

There are many workers who are injured who will not have their injury assessed as greater then 5% impairment.  Because that worker is unable to access the common law damages, the effect upon the worker and their family can be severe.

So how much does 5% WPI actually affect a person?

While a permanent impairment essentially means the loss of a body part of function, depending on the percentage received, a worker may or may not be eligible to claim a payment on their injury. Serious impairment that can fall below the 5% threshold include

  • The loss of a little or ring finger or total loss of movement of any joint of thumb
  • Complete loss of olfaction (smell) or taste senses
  • Back injuries and neck, such as disc fractures and protusion’s
  • Wrist injuries, including fractures and carpel tunnel
  • Knee injuries, including dislocations
  • Ankle and foot injuries, including fractures and nerve injuries
  • Shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff tears and ligament injuries
  • Nerve injuries to the spine, arms and legs
  • Psychological injuries including post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety

Kerin Lawyers are of view that the new threshold laws do not take into account that the level of impairment that a worker maybe assessed at is not always an accurate reflection of that workers actual disability.  A worker may only suffer a minor degree of impairment, but the effect upon the workers ability to continue to work into the future can be catastrophic.

A good example to demonstrate the effect of the 5% thresholds is the example of a concert piano player who suffers a workplace injury to their little finger and loses complete mobility of the finger.  It is possible that the loss of mobility to one finger could be assessed at less than 5% whole person impairment.   For a worker who has a desk job, the loss of mobility of their little finger may not affect them greatly, however for the concert piano player, their career may affectively be over. Because of the introduction of the 5% thresholds, the concert piano player is prevented from seeking compensation for their future loss of earnings, even though the injury was not their fault and they have now lost their career and future earning potential.

The above example is increasingly common for workers across various industries, but particularly so for workers who are tradespeople and other workers who work in physically demanding workplaces.

There are legal avenues available to the worker who is assessed at falling below the 5% whole person threshold.  Kerin Lawyers are able to provide legal advice to any worker who suffers a workplace injury or experiences difficulties with the new threshold laws.   If you have experienced a work place injury, contact us at Kerin Lawyers today on 1300 LAWYER or complete our online enquiry form to find out how we can help you make a claim.



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