Jacqui’s 12-year fight for workplace injury compensation

24 February 2020

Article from January edition of INPractice

“During a routine rostered shift, I was assisting a client, when they kicked me and I was knocked to the floor,” Jacqui says.

“I really regret not reporting that incident immediately, because the next day I was allocated to the same client, who lashed out at me again,” she says.

“I twisted my body to try and avoid being kicked for a second time, but it was too late. I suddenly felt terrible and excruciating pain down one side of my body, from my left shoulder to my leg.”

Jacqui was diagnosed with bursitis in her left hip and shoulder, two protruding discs in her lumbar area, acute sciatica, “I couldn’t sit without gasping”, and—on top of all that—post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The attacks occurred in 2003, when Jacqui’s whole world then turned upside down. Her days were filled with psychiatrist, psychologist and physiotherapy appointments and she also required regular hydrotherapy and multiple cortisone injections.

The overall physical and mental distress Jacqui endured as a result of attempting to care for a client illustrates just how easily nurses, midwives and personal care workers can sustain serious injuries while working.

Due to her injuries, Jacqui was unable to carry out any work for two years and could only return in a reduced capacity as a Data Entry Clerk for 12 months at a local hospital.

“I found it really, really hard not being able to work as a nurse, but the pain I was experiencing from my injuries was agonising,” she says. 

“I was hardly sleeping and was having nightmares about the client who assaulted me.”

“After the attacks, I very quickly realised I needed to get expert advice.”

Jacqui contacted the ANMF (SA Branch)’s in-house law firm Union Legal SA about beginning a WorkCover claim and seeking compensation.

“Union Legal SA handled my case the whole way through. Straight away, they guided me during the process and ensured I had a support person with me at every meeting I attended.”

Union Legal SA helped Jacqui to navigate through complex negotiations with her employer including a WorkCover claim, and when and where she could return to work.

“The organisation I worked for was trying to send me back to the facility where I was injured to have some ‘desensitisation’, despite my GP telling them that would be totally inappropriate. At that time, whenever I saw an elderly client it triggered my PTSD.”

“You’re supposed to be nurtured by your employer and treated like a human being. In my case, my workplace disagreed with my doctor on what I could and couldn’t do.

“I am very grateful to Union Legal SA and its Chief Legal Counsel Geraldine Hannon. They understood my situation and with Geraldine being a former nurse, the team could relate to what I was going through – showing both empathy and practical support.”

Union Legal SA supported Jacqui throughout the entire claims process, representing her at all her hearings and fighting for the compensation she was entitled to.

“My employer dug their heels in and did not want to pay for some of my medical appointments. I could tell they wanted me out of their hair, but they weren’t prepared to pay me a fair amount,” Jacqui says.

“The Union Legal SA team was amazing and without them I would’ve ended up with nothing.”

Some 12 years after Jacqui was violently attacked twice while at work, the matter was finalised in 2015. Jacqui was compensated $17,000, including reimbursement for the medical treatment she had covered out of her own pocket.

“Full credit to the ANMF (SA Branch) for giving its members access to an in-house law firm with a professional team of lawyers who have supported me. They helped to keep my employer honest!”

Since the attacks, Jacqui has undertaken a Bachelor of Nursing and, later, a Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing, and is now working as a Mental Health Nurse at an Adelaide public hospital.

She has made a full recovery, both physically and mentally, and is now a mentor to her nursing colleagues who have been injured at work or are going through the WorkCover process.

“If you’re injured at work, it’s important to follow all the proper processes and seek advice from Union Legal SA straight away.”

“No matter how minor you think your injury is, even if it’s just a cut finger, you need to report it. Injuries can worsen over time.” 

Did you know? 
ANMF (SA Branch) members are eligible for a free 30-minute legal consultation with a Union Legal SA lawyer.

If you need legal advice, contact Union Legal SA today on 1800 792 834 or unionlegalsa@anmfsa.org.au.

Click here to read the January 2020 edition of INPractice.