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Published: 29 September 2017
Author: Ross Inglis

What if I don’t get better? What injured clients really fear

In the following interview, WorkCover expert Ross Inglis explains that it is often the things that a client doesn’t say that are the most important to their recovery.

For most people who have been injured at work, although they're concerned about what their entitlements are now, their real problem is fear about the future.

Some of the questions they ask themselves are the ones they don’t ask you.

"What if I don't get better, what will happen to me?"

"What will happen if I can't return to work, will I still get compensation?"

"Will my employer take me back and if my employer won't or can't, what do I then do."

This is not an issue for people with minor injuries, but for people who have major injuries, like a serious back injury where it's clear that the injury has knocked them out of their normal vocation, many of these people don’t have transferrable skills.  

A good lawyer must be more than a legal advisor. You may in some circumstances give them advice on obtaining some transferable skills, or of accessing skills they may already have but because perhaps of an immigrant background are not immediately transferable in Australia.

Making a new start

I have a client who is from Vietnam and she's learning English to open up additional opportunities, she's got limited command of it, she can't read English but she can speak it reasonably well.

She has offered to do this course in the hope that it could assist her, because she was a qualified accountant in Vietnam, and so has transferable skills, but lacking the ability to read English well has proved to be a barrier to employment here.

That's just an example but I find that many injured people, particularly immigrants with ethnic backgrounds are absolutely paranoid that they're somehow going to have to return to the country they came from, or that they'll be seen as a liability on society.

From their perspective, they've come here lawfully and are allowed to stay, but now they're injured and they feel they are a burden on the system which is what they never wanted to be, so there's a lot of angst and fear.

What is our approach in dealing with people who are injured at work?

People who are injured in the workplace are often very stressed as a result of their injury.

You must use language that they can understand, explain the legal terminology and reassure them as to what their current benefits are and to try and assist them in terms of their future.

Being a lawyer often means that you're a little bit more than just a person who is handling the legal side of things. Sometimes you make some suggestions as to where they may go financial advice, or to consult other medical assistants, and so on.

I find that a lot of people are very concerned about the prospect of surgery, and whether they should get a second opinion. So without interfering with roles of other practitioners and with Medicare and so forth, one needs to get the message across to people in terminology that they can understand and to reassure them because many of them are very, very stressed.

Some of the most important things are left unsaid.

It is the profession and skill of a good lawyer to ask the right questions and to encourage a client to have the courage to answer them.