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Legal Services Offered to Police Officers

By Ryan Heath & Lilia Fermor

Sciaccas Lawyers have been offering legal services to members of the Queensland Police Union of Employees (QPUE) for approximately 10 years. The focus of the advices that we have provided relate to the Workcover processes and common law claims for damages arising out of injuries suffered in the course of employment and/or as a result of motor vehicle accidents.  

Through our association with the QPUE we provide a number of services free of charge and/or on a no win no fee basis depending on the nature of the claim and the prospects of success.  

The first step in the process of any claim is having a Workcover statutory claim lodged and accepted.  The legislation which governs the Workcover process in Queensland is the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 

A Workcover claim will be accepted if the injured worker is able to establish that:-  

  1. They are a worker; 
  2. They have suffered a personal injury; and
  3. For physical injuries, their work is a significant contributing factor to that injury; or
  4. For psychological injuries, their work was ‘the major significant contributing factor to that injury 

In claims for pure psychological injuries it is further necessary to establish that the injury has not arisen because of reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way 

Generally speaking claims for physical injuries are rarely controversial and often accepted by Workcover without complication. However it is claims for pure psychological injuries that prove more problematic.  

Very often when officers are lodging a claim for a psychological injury it is difficult for them to articulate the precise causes of the injury. Further, they are often encouraged by Workcover claims officers to list numerous factors.  

If the injured officer then goes on to detail issues arising from management action, it allows Workcover to utilise the exception relating to “reasonable management action” to reject the claim. Accordingly, Sciaccas have been advising officers to contact our offices prior to lodging any Workcover claim to obtain advice to give themselves the best chances of having the claim accepted. 

Injured officers should not list issues relating to management issues if they are not causative of their injury. By obtaining early legal advices the injured officer gives themselves the best chance of having the claim accepted. Sciaccas continues to provide this advice to officers at no charge and with no ongoing obligation.  

If a Workcover claim is rejected by Workcover the injured officer has only three (3) months to lodge a review of that decision with the Workers’ Compensation Regulator. Sciaccas offers a further service of obtaining and examining the Workcover file and decision and advising the officer of their prospects of success in successfully overturning that decision. That advice is provided at no cost and with no obligation.  

In circumstances where Sciaccas considers there are strong prospects of success on the review and that there may be a further common law claim they will conduct the review similarly on a no win no fee basis.  

In circumstances where the prospects of success on the review are not as strong, the injured officer has the option of engaging Sciaccas to conduct the review at discounted rates for professional costs.  

Once a Workcover claim is accepted the injured officer is entitled to receive payments for time off work and for medical expenses until such time as the injury is determined to be stable and stationary. At that time the injured officer will receive a Notice of Assessment from Workcover containing an offer of lump sum compensation based upon their degree of permanent impairment (DPI).  

Should the injured officer be assessed with a DPI of 20% or less they are required to make an irrevocable choice as to whether they wish to accept the amount of lump sum compensation or commence a claim for common law damages.  

At the stage of receiving the Notice of Assessment Sciaccas further provides a service whereby they will assess the Workcover file and provide advices, at no charge, as to whether they have reasonable prospects of success on a common law action. Should Sciaccas consider there are such reasonable prospects Sciaccas will act for the injured officer on a no win no fee basis.  

Sciaccas continue to provide a no win no fee service for personal injuries arising from injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents and a free will service for all QPUE members.  

Sciaccas also provide a no win no fee service for total and permanent disablement (TPD) claims arising from medical retirement. Often the medical retirement arises from injuries sustained in the course of duty.  This may be injuries of a physical or psychological nature.  However, injuries or illnesses suffered independent of work will also result in an entitlement to a TPD payment. 

In summary Sciaccas has provided and continues to provide extensive legal services to QPUE members at no charge or on a no win no fee basis in the following circumstances:-  

  1. Free initial advice regarding framing of the Workcover application to give the injured officer the best chance of having the claim accepted. 
  2. Upon receipt of a rejected or ceased Workcover claim Sciaccas will obtain on behalf of the injured officer the Workcover claim file, review it and provide advice on prospects of success of lodging a review with the Workcover Regulator. Should the injured officer wish to proceed with a review at that stage Sciaccas will provide information regarding the costs of the review.
  3. Upon a Workcover claim being finalised with receipt of a Notice of Assessment Sciaccas will provide free legal advice regarding the injured officers prospects of success in a common law action. This will entail a detailed review of the Workcover file, the medical evidence and obtaining the injured officers instructions regarding the circumstances in which the injury was suffered. 
  4. Should the injured officer wish to proceed with a Workcover claim Sciaccas will act for the injured officer on a no win no fee basis. That is if the officer is unsuccessful in obtaining any compensation there will be no professional costs payable by the injured officer to Sciaccas.
  5. In circumstances where an officer is medically retired through injury or illness and is unable to exercise any alternate earning capacity Sciaccas will act on behalf of the injured officer on a no win no fee basis in any claim for a total and permanent disablement application pursuant to the relevant QSuper policy. 
  6. In circumstances where an injured officer has suffered injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident either in the course of their employment or otherwise Sciaccas will act on behalf of the injured officer in a claim against the at fault compulsory third party insurer on a no win no fee basis.
  7. Sciaccas continues to provide a free will service for any member of the QPUE  

Sciaccas remain committed to providing professional legal services to all members of the QPUE and their families. Should any officers have any queries regarding the services we can provide they should not hesitate to contact Ryan Heath on 3867 8839.