Serious lower back injuries sustained in the workplace are a significant concern in Australia, with a high prevalence and substantial economic impact. When conservative treatments fail to provide adequate relief, surgery may become a necessary option. Lower back injuries often require surgery, and the sufferer may need to make an injury compensation claim or a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) claim for permanent impairment. Workers Compensation is a no-fault insurance scheme that provides financial support and medical treatment for work-related injuries and illnesses.

However, the worst and most common mistake workers can make after they have injured their back at work is thinking they’ll automatically receive their full entitlements. Back injury claims are often denied, and many people fail to claim additional lump sums for which they are entitled.

The Burden of Lower Back Injuries

Lower back pain is a leading cause of disability in Australia, affecting millions of people each year. However, not all workers’ compensation cases need surgery. Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) indicate that back problems are the most common musculoskeletal condition, costing the healthcare system billions of dollars annually. These injuries can arise from various factors, including:

  • Manual labour involving heavy lifting, bending, or twisting
  • Repetitive strain from prolonged sitting or awkward postures
  • Workplace accidents and sports injuries
  • Age-related degeneration of the spine (e.g., osteoarthritis)

The pain associated with lower back injuries can range from mild discomfort to debilitating, significantly impacting a person’s work, daily activities, and overall quality of life.

Surgical Intervention for Lower Back Problems

Surgery for lower back problems is typically considered a last resort after conservative treatments like physiotherapy, pain medication, and activity modification have proven ineffective. Common types of serious lower back injury surgeries can include:

  • Discectomy: Removal of a herniated disc that is impinging on a nerve root, causing pain and weakness.
  • Laminectomy: Creating space in the spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Spinal fusion: This operation involves joining two or more vertebrae to provide permanent stability and address issues like spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebra).
  • Microdiscectomy: Minimally invasive procedure for removing a herniated disc.

The decision to undergo back surgery is complex and requires careful consideration with a medical professional. Factors like the severity of the pain, neurological symptoms, and potential risks associated with surgery are all weighed in the decision-making process.

Workers Compensation and Lower Back Surgery

Suppose you’ve injured your back in the workplace carrying, pulling, pushing, lifting, bending, twisting, or sitting for long periods, especially in a non-ergonomic chair. In that case, you may be eligible to claim compensation.

If your lower back injury resulted from a specific incident or accident at work, or if it was exacerbated by your work activities to the extent that surgery is necessary, you may be eligible to file a claim for benefits. A successful Workers’ compensation back injury claim provides a safety net to pay your medical costs and cover your wages while you’re off work.

Here’s a breakdown of Workers’ Compensation and lower back surgery in Australia:

Eligibility to Claim Compensation

To claim workers’ compensation for a lower back injury requiring surgery, you must demonstrate a clear link between the injury and your work. This may involve reporting the injury promptly, providing medical evidence, and outlining the work activities that caused or contributed to the injury.

Benefits Awarded in a Successful Compensation Claim

Workers Compensation can cover a range of expenses associated with lower back surgery, including:

  • Medical costs (hospitalisation, surgery fees, prosthetics)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Lost wages due to time off work for surgery and recovery
  • Lump sum compensation payment in cases of permanent impairment.

Navigating Back Injury Workers’ Compensation

It’s important to note that workers’ compensation schemes vary across each state and territory in Australia. For the most up-to-date information, consult your state’s relevant workers’ compensation authority. At PK Simpson, we can help you make a back injury claim no matter where you live; we know the rules for each state.

A  lower back injury workers’ compensation claim can be challenging to navigate on your own when complex when surgery is involved. If you have a work-related back injury, especially if it requires surgery, you must get in touch with one of our highly experienced and qualified workers’ compensation lawyers at PK Simpson today. We’ve helped countless injured workers and those with permanent impairment, including spinal cord injury and others across Australia.

Here are some essential steps to consider when making a serious back injury claim:

  • Seek medical treatment:

Get a diagnosis from a doctor and discuss potential treatment options, including surgery and the possibility of permanent impairment.

  • Report the injury:

Inform your employer about the injury as soon as possible, ideally within 30 days of the incident.

  • Lodge an injury claim:

Contact your state’s workers’ compensation authority to lodge a claim formally. This typically involves submitting a claim form and supporting documentation. At PK Simpson, we can help you do this to ensure you get the compensation you deserve for any back injury claims.

  • Seek legal advice:

Consulting a lawyer experienced in workers’ compensation claims can be enormously beneficial if you have a serious work-related back injury, especially in complex cases or where surgery is involved.

You may be eligible to claim permanent impairment for a back injury at work and possibly receive back injury compensation payouts. If so, we have a network of medico-legal doctors experienced in back injury compensation claims who can diagnose your condition. Your insurer will also have doctors who do the same, so we would need you to get a second opinion from our independent specialists.

Average Payouts for Back Injuries Sustained at Work

The lump sum compensation payout you may receive for back injuries depends on various factors. An average payout for back injuries is very hard to assess for workers suffering back injuries since their situations are usually varied. While there is little data on the average back injury compensation payout, the table below lists the lump sum payout according to your whole person impairment (WPI) percentage.

Weekly Payments

Weekly payments are typically indexed to the average wages of your pay grade. The maximum weekly compensation amount is indexed and capped in April and October every year. The maximum amount for weekly payments from April 1, 2024, to September 30 2024 is $2,497.70.

Back Injury Claims and Permanent Impairment

If you suffer a back injury at work that causes permanent impairment, the severity also varies markedly, which means a workers’ compensation claim payout is linked to the whole person impairment percentage assessment.

The table below shows the ranges of payments and maximum amounts you may receive in a claim for back injury at work. These are for particular degrees of permanent impairment, although these figures can change over time.

Degree of Permanent Impairment

Permanent Impairment Payout

0 – 10%

$0

11% –  30%

$27,790 – $96,760

31% – 50%

$102,690 – $216,310

51% – 55%

$299,300

56% – 60%

$382,170

61% – 65%

$465,040

66% – 70%

$547,910

71% – 74%

$630,770

75% – 100%

$713,660

Back Injury Sustained at Work? Reach Out

If your back has been injured at work, contact PK Simpson’s personal injury and compensation lawyers as soon as possible. Our compensation lawyers will gather all the necessary witness details, essential information, photographs, and other necessary documents and evidence on your behalf. This support process may include engaging experts, reviewing medical records and lost earnings, and assessing your future circumstances and needs.

Our dedicated team will help you communicate with your employer’s insurance company, negotiate, and manage all aspects of your claim to ensure you get the best possible result and a back injury payout if that applies to your situation. Contact us here.