In an ideal world, media outlets would act as a mirror that reflects society back at itself and gives us much-needed opportunities to examine our actions, attitudes and beliefs. A societal “self-crit”, if you will.

In reality, however, the news media often performs that examination itself, giving viewers and readers pre-packaged ideas about topics most of us won’t research past the headlines.

This potentially polarising approach is particularly problematic when it comes to one topic that most news publications and current affairs programs never get tired of covering: Compensation.

When it comes to portraying “compo” claimants, there seems to be no middle ground in Australia: You’re either a blameless victim or a shameless opportunist.

Blameless Victims: Genuine, Deserving Claimants

The Australian media, and in turn the Australian public, tends to see some groups of people as blameless victims.

These groups include:

  • Victims of violent crime and sexual abuse
  • Customers who have been wronged by a huge corporation and;
  • “Battlers” who have had their rights flouted by the government (The Castle, anyone?).

While it’s easy to sympathise with these groups, there can be unintended consequences when media outlets act as advocates:

  • Emphasis on any accusations before of an official verdict is reached can cause the public to make unfounded judgements about people who may later be proven to be innocent. If claims against someone are later found to be unsubstantiated, the damage the media can do to their reputation often lasts a lifetime.
  • Sometimes the victim’s right to privacy is flouted in favour of the public’s right to know. Even if a compensation claimant is portrayed favourably, the media attention they receive can negatively impact their lives.
  • The media’s tendency to publicise only the most salacious cases may leave people who have a legitimate but not necessarily newsworthy claim to feel as though they aren’t injured enough to seek payment.

Shameless Gold Diggers: Opportunists Looking for Quick Cash

While some compensation claimants can do no wrong in the eyes of the media, many people who make a claim find themselves in the limelight in all the wrong ways.

Claimants the media portrays as shameless opportunists include:

  • Slip, trip & fall claimants who are injured while going about their daily lives
  • Businesses seeking recompense after being adversely affected by government policy
  • Celebrities pursuing large claims
  • Stories about these groups often have less sympathy for a claimant and more of a focus on how large a claim is, how the victim’s suffering could be their own fault, or how ridiculous the premise of a claim may be.

These interpretations, while sometimes valid, have problems of their own:

  • Framing the process of seeking compensation for a public injury in a negative light can make people who are entitled to claim feel too ashamed to act.
  • Focussing on celebrity cases, such as Rebel Wilson’s defamation lawsuit, can perpetuate inaccurate assumptions about who Australia’s laws are designed to protect. The majority of defamation cases in Australia aren’t pursued against media publishers; they’re between everyday people.
  • Publicity surrounding corporate claims often perpetuates ignorance of what compensation is and how it works, neglecting many of the nuances involved in commercial litigation.
  • When it comes to compensation, many Australians have an understanding of the law that is based entirely on media representations of cases. But, these representations can be inaccurate, biased, incomplete or oversimplified, and as such are not an ideal resource for anyone who needs legal information.

In our next blog “Contextualising Compensation: What You Need to Know About Claiming” we fill in the gaps so that whether you’re considering making a claim or you’re just reading about someone else’s case, you’ll be well informed.

Need to know more about compensation law in Queensland? Tell us your story today and we’ll let you know what your options are. Just fill in our online contact form, call (07) 3607 3274 or email info@phoenix-law.com.au and our friendly team will be in touch.

Whether you’re reading about a monster payout in the newspaper, or you’re wondering if you might be entitled to compensation, it’s vital that you have an understanding of compensation that is based on the law, not the media.

What is Compensation?

Compensation is a payment that you are entitled to receive if you suffer harm that was caused by the negligence of someone who owes you a duty of care.

This rather wordy explanation contains several legal definitions you need to be aware of:

Harm refers to all types of injury and loss, including:

  • Physical and psychological injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage and;
  • Economic loss (both past and future)

Negligence is when someone else acts recklessly, carelessly, or without the degree of skill usually expected of them in a particular set of circumstances, and this causes some kind of damage or injury to you.

Duty of care refers to circumstances where a person should have foreseen that their conduct could have injured you. If there is a duty of care, the person who owes the duty must perform it or act to a reasonable standard. Failure to do this is called a “breach of duty of care”. Only someone owing a duty of care to you can be said to have acted negligently towards you.

In Queensland, some relationships automatically have a duty of care.

These include (but aren’t limited to) relationships between:

  • Doctor & patient
  • Landlord & tenant
  • Employer & employee
  • Prison & detainee
  • Manufacturer or supplier & consumer
  • Road user & road user
  • Teacher & student

If you think that your case satisfies these three requirements, it’s time to get some legal advice about what to do next.

How Does Claiming Compensation Work?

How you go about making a claim will depend on the specific facts of your case. For example, in Queensland, injuries sustained at your workplace usually involve navigating the WorkCover system first, whereas claims of medical negligence can go straight to court.

If you’re seeking compensation, you’ll need a lawyer to:

  1. Help you see if you have a case
  2. Explain what you need to do next and;
  3. Prepare the relevant documents so you can lodge your claim within the legislated deadlines.

How Much Compensation Can I Claim?

One of the biggest misconceptions in Australia is that large compensation claims are essentially “money for nothing”.

How much a claim is worth is actually based on very real calculations that take into account:

  • Financial losses suffered as a result of the harm caused: This calculation includes both immediate losses and future losses, which can be quite substantial if the claimant’s ability to work has been affected.
  • The extent of any injuries: Injuries that are severe, or have life-long consequences will incur higher compensation payments than temporary or minor injuries.
  • Damage to personal property: Claimants may also receive compensation for physical property that has been damaged, with unique items usually attracting more compensation than replaceable objects.

Every claim is different, which is why most lawyers will be reluctant to give you a dollar figure until they understand all of the details of your case and have communicated with the other party’s insurer or solicitors.

When Can’t I Make a Claim?

There are some circumstances where you cannot claim compensation. These include:

  • Occasions where any harm you suffer is caused by incidents that are deemed to be “acts of God”
  • When harm occurs as the result of an act of war or terrorism
  • Injuries and accidents that were your own fault (as opposed to contributory negligence, where an incident is only partially your fault)

A good personal injury lawyer will tell you very early on if your claim is likely to be unsuccessful because of any of these factors.

What Is No Win No Fee?

You may have seen lawyers who offer “no win no fee” services. This is a popular type of billing arrangement where you may not have to pay any legal fees if your claim is unsuccessful.

It’s important to know, however, that no win no fee is not a risk-free arrangement.

You may have to pay disbursements (out of pocket expenses your lawyers pay other people, e.g. court fees) and if you lose you may also have to pay the opposing side’s legal fees.

Make sure that you fully understand your solicitor’s billing structure before you sign anything.

I Think I May Have a Claim, What Do I Do Now?

There is a handful of accurate and informative online resources available to Queensland residents who are considering pursuing a personal injury or negligence claim. If you want to find out more before you contact a lawyer, take a look at:

Legal Aid (note: this is a basic overview, Legal Aid does not offer specific legal advice in this area)

The Queensland Law Handbook

WorkCover Queensland (for information about work-related claims)

Or, if you’re not sure what to research, you can contact Phoenix Law to book a free, no-obligation claim evaluation with one of our solicitors. Just call (07) 3607 3274 email info@phoenix-law.com.au or use our online contact form to tell us what happened to you.

Overwhelmed. Undervalued. Unappreciated.

These are the feelings many Australian caregivers experience from the moment they wake up in the morning up until they go to sleep at night.

As personal injury lawyers, we have witnessed first hand the traumatic effects accidents and injuries have not just on victims, but on carers who must also pick up the pieces.

Caring is rarely a one-off or short-term task, and whether acting as a carer is your job or a responsibility that’s fallen into your lap, the various ways you first coped when you started out on your caregiving journey may not sustain you in the long-term.

In this blog, we want to help carers by:

  • Highlighting the warning signs of caregiver burnout
  • Offering practical ways to cope with stress
  • Providing a list of resources for caregivers who need professional help

14 Signs You’re Headed For a Burnout

While concerned family and colleagues often tell caregivers “look after yourself”, negative symptoms usually creep up so slowly that carers don’t realise the importance of their own suffering until a full-fledged burnout has taken hold.

Red flags to look out for include:

  1. Anxiety about going to work or day-to-day life
  2. Feeling emotionally and physically fatigued even when you get enough sleep
  3. Being unable to relax even if you get a few days off or go on holiday
  4. Having trouble sleeping or relying on sleep medications
  5. Being easily set off by minor annoyances
  6. Feeling hopeless and helpless
  7. Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  8. Feeling resentful
  9. Overeating, excessive drinking and smoking
  10. Having trouble focussing
  11. Withdrawal from friends and family
  12. Getting sick more than you used to
  13. Wanting to hurt yourself or the person you’re caring for
  14. Feeling like your life revolves around caregiving

Many caregivers find it very hard to tell someone when they start experiencing these warning signs, often believing that these negative symptoms are a reflection of their character or ability.

It’s also very common for caregivers to feel guilty about the way their role makes them feel, which just continues the hidden cycle of stress and unhappiness.

6 Self-Care Practices for Carers

Practising self-care is essential for everyone, but when you’re a carer, it’s critical.

Self-care practices that you can start right now include:

  1. Taking time for yourself: List the activities you like doing and make sure they are a part of your life. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day to yourself, it’s essential that you are spending that time replenishing the energy you expend in your role as a carer.
  2. Setting boundaries and limits: You can’t compromise your health or happiness for someone else. By using a journal and/or getting professional help, you can reflect on the root of your unhappiness, recognise your limitations and learn how to enforce them assertively.
  3. Establishing a routine: Carers often exert so much energy establishing other’s routines they don’t have time to look after themselves. Schedule your week in advance, making sure to include time to take care of your chores, connect with friends and family, and periods where you just do nothing.
  4. Asking for help: Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for help. Find networks of people who you can talk with freely (whether that be an official support group or just a Facebook community), get counselling, and consider delegating our outsourcing tasks you don’t have time to do.
  5. Getting enough sleep: Mental health and good sleep go hand in hand. Set a bedtime, avoid looking at screens after dark, and if you still have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor.
  6. Appreciate yourself: Don’t downplay how important your role is. As a carer, you provide a service that is incredibly valuable – something you can forget when you get no appreciation from the people who receive most of your energy. One way to overcome this is to tell yourself the positive feedback you wish others would give. If, however, you’re feeling down more often than not, you should seek professional help.

Where to Get Help in Australia

Fortunately, there are many resources available for carers in Australia. If you need someone to talk to, you want information on additional resources, or you’re in crisis, you can access free 24/7 counselling from:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Or, you can find a local carer support group and gain access to free counselling specifically for carers on the Queensland Government Support for Carers page.

For more information about your rights as a carer, or the rights of the person you’re caring for, get in touch with one of our solicitors today for an obligation-free chat. Simply call 07 3607 3274, email info@phoenix-law.com.au or fill in our online contact form.

There is no industry more concerned with specifics than the insurance industry, and anyone who has lodged a Total and Permanent Disability insurance (TPD) claim can attest to just how detailed a completed claim application needs to be and how excruciatingly long it can take to have a claim approved.

If you’re considering lodging a TPD claim with your insurer or superannuation fund, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer on hand to:

1. Scrutinise your insurer’s definitions

Earlier this year, Queensland construction worker fund BussQ changed the wording of their policies to state that a claim would be paid out when a hurt worker is “unable ever” to return to work. Previously, claims would be paid out if a hurt worker was “unlikely ever” to return to work.

While changes in wording may seem insignificant, one slightly altered phrase can be the difference between lodging a successful claim and getting knocked back. Unsuccessful claimants need to know that updated policy definitions that were applied to their TPD insurance claim might not have been tested by the courts, and any unfairly worded policy could be legally contested.

2. Navigate deadlines

A lawyer can inform you about the timeframe you have to lodge your claim within (sometimes there is one, sometimes there isn’t) and any waiting periods you have to serve before you can make a claim.

3. Help you provide detailed, relevant and necessary information

By giving you a list of documents (including evidence) needed to process your claim, explaining the very specific wording of your policy, and reviewing the language used in your claim, a lawyer can help speed up the application process and increase your chances of success.

4. Explain your entitlements

Do you know that if your claim is paid, you may be entitled to interest on the claim amount? In some circumstances, if you don’t ask your insurer simply won’t tell you what extras you are entitled to.

TPD claims can be complex, and putting together a claim after you’ve suffered a life-altering injury or illness is always trying.

A lawyer can take the stress out of accessing your entitlements and ensure that you receive all that you deserve. If you would like to speak to one of our lawyers about your TPD claim, contact Phoenix Law on 07 3607 3274 or info@phoenix-law.com.au for an obligation free consultation.