How to get compensation for a disc bulge injury

A disc bulge injury often happens at work when the employer’s workplace is unsafe. Many workers are forced to lift heavy objects repetitively, or in an awkward position. For example, we have had clients who suffered a disc bulge when they were required to restock items under time pressure. Many people just assume that a disc bulge is a normal consequence of ageing, whereas very often it is actually caused by a negligent employer.


This type of injury can commonly be referred to as a slipped disc or a protruding disc. It can affect the lumbar spine, thoracic spine or the cervical spine. More severe cases involve sciatica, leg pain, pins and needles or numbness and weakness.


Pre-existing degeneration or spondylosis

If you suffer a disc bulge or other spinal injury, you are entitled to compensation even if imaging shows that you had suffered from (usually) age related degeneration or spondylosis. As people age, it is normal that there is some degeneration in the discs of the spine. MRI investigations will usually show this. But very often the degeneration is asymptomatic, meaning that you don’t feel any pain. In fact, if the work accident or other type of accident had not happened, you wouldn’t have felt any symptoms until well into your 60s or beyond.


Treatment and costs

In minor cases, once the initial inflammation settles, the injury is treated by a physiotherapist. More severe cases may require medications, epidural injections or even spinal surgery (such as discectomy) to repair some herniated discs.


While treatment for back pain is funded by Medicare, there may be a waiting list (especially for some surgeries). It is possible to speed up the process if you have private health insurance. Alternatively, if you have a workers’ compensation claim on foot then usually WorkCover Queensland would fund the necessary treatment.


How much compensation can I get?

The reality is, no two cases are identical. Generally, at least 12 to 18 months pass between the injury and settlement, although in serious cases, it can take longer. In fact, it is not uncommon that it takes 18 months just for your injuries to become stable and stationary, and it is only then that we can start with your claim.


Determining the value of the case is a complex process and we use this time period to obtain evidence (medical and/or forensic evidence) about the injuries and their long-term impact.


That said, the typical measures of the value of the case are these categories: general damages (or pain and suffering) past and future medical and other expenses, past and future income loss, the value of services received for free (for example care received from family members), interest and costs.


General damages (pain and suffering)

The amount of compensation you can receive as general damages depends on the nature and severity of your injuries and the extent of your pain and suffering. In many cases, the compensation amount is fixed by legislation. In some other cases, the court has broad discretion.


Where general damages is capped by legislation, experts will rate the severity of your injuries on a scale of 1 to 100. For example, a moderate spinal injury may be rated 5 to 15. The applicable general damages award is between $8,340 and $30,254. (As at 2024, based on the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulations 2014. These figures are indexed every year, leading to a small annual increase.)


If there is no legislative cap, then the court can award you more for general damages.


How do you know if there is a cap in your case? We advise about this once we have investigated your claim. If we find that more than one company may be liable to pay you compensation (which often happens on construction sites or when labour hire companies are involved) then chances are your claim is not capped.


Loss of earnings (also future earnings)

You can be compensated for earnings you lose because you are not able to work due to your injuries.


Past earnings loss (loss between the date of injury and settlement or judgement) is generally proven based on tax returns and other financial documents.


Compensation for future economic loss (loss you incur up to retirement age) depends on your age, your residual earning capacity, but other factors may also be taken into account. Please note: we can recover lump sum compensation now for losses you might incur in the future. We factor in wage increases, overtime, promotional opportunities and a range of other factors into our calculus. We have prepared a free brochure which you can immediately download and which will help you understand more about how future income loss is calculated.


It’s important to realise you are also entitled to be compensated for superannuation contributions which you would have received but for your injuries.


Past and future medical expenses

Past medical expenses refers to expenses which you incur between the date of the injury and the date of settlement or judgement.  Think of X-Rays, MRI scans, GP visits etc. To ensure that you receive compensation for all expenses incurred, it is important to keep receipts.


In addition to medical expenses, you can also recover travel expenses, and in some cases other other things as well such as accommodation costs


Future expenses are those which you will incur after the date of settlement or judgement. These expenses are based on estimates provided by medical and other experts. The estimates take into account any need for further surgery, likely medication expenses, likely further travel expenses, any special equipment (think of reclining chairs, special shoes etc).


The value of services received for free from family

You are generally entitled to be compensated for the value of services received for free, such as care received from family members. Again, you are entitled to compensation for services received between the injury and settlement or judgement, as well as the value of future services. However, there are some legislative thresholds which may apply to your case and which may limit your entitlements. We can advise further during the initial interview.

Free book offer: what to expect in your injury claim

Many firms try to rush you to sign up with them without carefully considering your options. We encourage you to first learn about your personal injury claim. You should ask yourself:

  • How do you calculate your compensation amount?
  • How should you choose your lawyer? Do you just choose by firm name regardless of who is really in charge of your matter? Has your lawyer ever argued a case in court?
  • What is a no win – no fee agreement? How much will it cost?

Our book is available to you free of charge. You don’t have to be a client to receive this book. Head to the order page and we will be happy to send you a copy straight away.

Oszkar Denes Seven Deadly Sins that can wreck your personal injury claim

Personal injury law is a very broad area requiring an expert compensation lawyer. Please contact  us on (07) 3063 2268 to discuss how we can represent you in matters including:









Frequently asked questions

My treating specialist says I need surgery, but WorkCover won't approve it. What can I do?

It may be possible to seek a review of WorkCover's decision. There is limited time to do so. Please seek legal advice as soon as possible to ensure your review application is made on time.

How long do I have to make a claim?

In Queensland, you have 3 years to make a claim in court. However, there are a number of procedural steps which you must take before you can make a claim in court, and the timeframes for these are much shorter. Different timeframes apply depending on whether your injury occurred at work, in a car crash or in some other circumstances. Call us and we can advise what you need to do.

I didn't have an "accident" at work. My back pain came on gradually. What can I do?

It may still be possible to make a claim. It's called an "over period of time" claim. We'll need to take detailed instructions from you in relation to the nature of your work, your day to day work duties and the timeline of how your back pain manifested. This is to ensure we can give you correct advice as to whether you can make a claim.

25% cap on legal costs


In Queensland, most compensation firms will charge you 50% of your compensation amount – the maximum allowed at law. This is very expensive. Our fee is different. We will cap our fee at 25%.  Remember also, these are the maximum fees we will charge. If our fee in your claim is less, then we charge the lesser amount.


Before you engage us, we will provide you a written Disclosure Notice and a Client Service Agreement. These documents set out in detail the service we provide, as well as our fees and outlays. Before you sign anything, you can take these documents home with you, and study them with your family. You can take as long as you need, there is never any pressure from us. If anything in these documents doesn’t make sense to you, we can discuss it with you and you are free to ask another lawyer to give you advice.  And remember, no win – no fee agreements come with a 5 day cooling off period for extra peace of mind.