Seymour Furlong Lawyers

Last updated on October 26th, 2023 at 11:07 am

Living with chronic pain resulting from work-related causes is uniquely challenging, but Queenslanders can take proactive steps to manage their quality of life. This guide is dedicated to helping you understand your rights and options — so that you can take charge of your life and wellbeing.

Understanding Chronic Pain from a Workplace Injury

Chronic pain is persistent, ongoing pain someone suffers most days of the week. Where it has an identified cause, chronic pain continues beyond the expected healing period. Chronic pain does not have to lead to disability, but people living with it are five times more likely to experience severe limitations in their day-to-day lives.

Common causes of work-related chronic pain include:

  • Workplace injuries, such as falls or accidents that result in fractures.
  • Work-related illnesses caused by exposure to hazardous materials like asbestos, chemicals, or fumes.
  • Manual labour, such as heavy lifting, prolonged standing, or physically-demanding work, may result in chronic back pain, joint problems, or muscle strains.
  • Repetitive strain injuries are caused by repetitive motions, sometimes over years.
  • Poor ergonomics and prolonged sedentary positions can cause severe chronic pain in people with desk jobs.
  • Psychological injuries may also be sustained during work, including in the form of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression. Mental health conditions can indirectly lead to chronic physical pain.

Your Rights and Chronic Pain

Workers suffering chronic pain as a result of workplace injuries, illnesses, ongoing physical labour, or poor working conditions have rights — and the right to Workers’ Compensation can secure your livelihood.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation covers the medical and living costs of workers who were injured at work, including those living with chronic pain. WorkCover Queensland is the only insurer to provide it in the state, although some employers are self-insured.

In Queensland, cases are initially filed on a statutory (no-fault) basis. Employees do not have to prove employer fault to lodge a claim but must establish that the chronic pain originated at work.

Role of Medical Consultation

Workers who were injured at work or experiencing chronic pain originating from poor working conditions are highly encouraged to consult a doctor whenever a new symptom arises, or the pain worsens.

Many workers naturally downplay the extent of their symptoms, but it is crucial to be honest with your doctor. The information you provide becomes part of your medical file, which you may later need to claim Workers’ Compensation.

The Importance of a Certificate of Capacity

A Certificate of Capacity, also called a Work Capacity Certificate, is a document that Workers’ Compensation Regulatory Services in Queensland and WorkCover Queensland rely on to manage and make decisions about Workers’ Compensation claims in the state. 

Employers use the document to understand the extent of workers’ injuries and decide on appropriate duties.

A Certificate of Capacity aims to provide all relevant information relating to the cause of your chronic pain, including:

  • Your diagnosis
  • Your abilities in the workplace — the certificate focuses on what workers can still do
  • Rehabilitation plans that could help you return to work in a suitable capacity
  • Injury and treatment time frames
  • A clearance certificate explaining that a worker is able to resume their duties

Returning to Work with Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain likely leads to limitations in all areas of life, including at work. It does not, however, necessarily mean you cannot work at all. Those returning to work have the right to receive adequate support from their employer, including duties tailored to their abilities.

Communicating with Your Employer

Your recovery team includes your supervisor, primary care provider, and other relevant medical professionals — but you are at the centre. Creating a plan that enables you to return to work while still living with chronic pain requires clear communication with your employer.

Being transparent about your limitations and situations that cause your chronic pain to worsen enables your employer to implement a plan that supports your recovery.

Managing Your Health at Work

Depending on the nature of your chronic pain and your work, reasonable accommodations that may be made for you include:

  • More frequent breaks.
  • An ergonomic workstation. 
  • Adaptive tools that make your work more comfortable for you.

However, workers can also contribute to their recovery and manage pain more effectively by taking a variety of steps. They include staying hydrated, practising stress relief and pain management techniques such as breathing exercises, doing stretching exercises during breaks, and using proper lifting techniques. 

Long-Term Implications of Chronic Pain at Work

The consequences of work-related chronic pain resonate in all areas of life. Far from the pain stopping when you’re off the clock, it can impact your ability to manage your daily responsibilities, care for children or elderly relatives, and enjoy leisure activities. 

In addition to the physical effects, chronic pain can also take a mental toll and lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. You may worry about the future if your medical team cannot offer a clear prognosis.

At work, chronic pain can:

  • Reduce your performance
  • Limit the range of tasks you can comfortably and safely perform
  • Cause the need for time off

In the worst cases, work-related chronic pain may be so bad that you are not able to return to work in any capacity, in which case you may qualify for Total and Permanent Disability coverage in Queensland.

Legal Assistance for Chronic Pain Sufferers

Are you suffering from chronic pain as a result of work — due to an injury, illness, or prolonged sub-optimal working conditions? Learning what your rights are, how to access the Workers’ Compensation you may be entitled to, and how to navigate a possible return to work, is complex. 

It may feel impossible to work out what you are entitled to and how to access it when considering the heavy burdens you already carry. A personal injury lawyer can lighten that load. Seymour Furlong Lawyers are available to help you navigate your rights and claims whenever you are ready.

Legal Actions You Can Take For Your Chronic Pain From Work

Work-related chronic pain can arise from various causes, including workplace injury and illness. In Queensland, workers suffering from chronic pain may be able to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim as well as exercise rights that enable them to return to work in a comfortable capacity. 

Navigating this process is complex, however. Don’t do it alone; partner with a personal injury lawyer who understands precisely what your rights are and how to get the compensation you deserve. Get in touch with Seymour Furlong Lawyers for legal advice and help today or whenever you are ready to understand and exercise your rights.