If you suffer personal injuries while you are on a visa, there are important steps you can take to protect your rights and maximise your compensation entitlements. This applies regardless of whether you are on a permanent or a temporary visa. You may be on a visitor visa or a temporary work visa and this still applies to you.
If you suffer injuries in an accident, and the accident was someone else’s fault, you can seek compensation. The compensation payment will cover your medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost income and other out-of-pocket expenses. (For example, you may have been forced to travel home sooner to seek treatment at home, and the extra travel costs may be recoverable).
In some cases, even if no-one else was at fault, you may be able to seek compensation. This may apply if your injury happened at work. In Queensland, if you are injured in a work accident, you are entitled to seek workers’ compensation payments from your employer. We understand that you may be concerned about claiming compensation from your employer, especially when they sponsor your stay in Australia. You need not worry because in most cases the compensation payments you receive are actually paid by an insurance company (workers’ compensation insurer) owned by the government.
Please note there may be some complex issues to consider when your compensation payout is worked out. For example, while it may be relatively easy to calculate out-of-pocket expenses or medical costs, determining your income loss requires specialist expertise. This is because you can recover not only income which you have already lost, but you can also claim income which you are likely to lose in the future. This is called lost future income. Depending on your medical condition, it may be possible to prove that you will not be able to work in the future, or that you can’t earn as much as you would have if the accident had not happened. For a relatively young person, the future lost income component of the compensation claim can be very significant.
Bear in mind also that the level of average wages varies between different countries. If you can prove that you would have been able to stay in Australia permanently if your accident had not happened, then your compensation can be calculated based on higher Australian wages, even if you are forced to return to your home country where wages are lower. This can make a huge difference and can have profound effects on your future lifestyle.
For these reasons, it is very important that you seek specialist legal advice before you make a compensation claim.
Complying with Visa conditions
In addition to your compensation entitlements, it’s also important to consider the conditions of your visa.
For example, you may be on a student visa when you suffer injuries. As an international student, you are required to attend classes and pass your courses, and if you fail to do so, your course provider may notify the Department of Immigration, who in turn may cancel your visa.
To make sure your visa remains valid it’s important to notify the Department of Immigration that you have suffered injuries which temporarily prevent you from complying with your visa conditions. We can assist you in this regard, and can obtain necessary medical evidence to support your claim. We don’t recommend relying on an education agency to sort out the paperwork with the Immigration Department. We have seen instances where students thought all paperwork was taken care of by their agency, only to find out later that the Immigration Department had not been notified properly, leading to visa cancellations.
Consider the costs of medical treatment
Many visitors aren’t aware about their options to seek medical treatment in Australia when they suffer injuries. The cost of medical treatment in Australia is comparatively high, and visa holders often feel that they need to return to their home country to seek medical treatment. Invariably, this means that their life in Australia is put on hold, but in many instances they end up not coming back to Australia at all. This can be avoided by doing some research or seeking specialist advice.
For example, if the injury happens at work, the employer may agree to fund medical treatment costs. In Queensland, WorkCover Queensland pays for surgery, rehabilitation and associated travel expenses. So it may not be necessary to go back to your home country to seek medical treatment there.
Alternatively, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, the other party’s insurance company may well agree to fund reasonable rehabilitation and medical expenses.
Can you come to Australia for specific events or treatment?
Finally, sometimes we get asked if it’s possible to come back to Australia to seek medical treatment after an accident. The answer is yes, but in some cases it may be necessary to apply for a medical treatment visa. This visa can be granted if arrangements have been made for Australian medical treatment, and if the Immigration Department is satisfied that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while in Australia.
Alternatively, if you seek compensation for injuries, it is possible that your compensation claim will not be finalised before you leave the country. In most compensation cases, the parties at some stage sit down to see if they can resolve the matter without formal court proceedings, and if that is unsuccessful, the matter will be heard in court at trial. It is possible to return to Australia if you wish to be present during the mediation of your case, or when it is heard by the court. However, again, it is important to arrange for the appropriate visa to ensure there is no impediment to your return to the country.
For additional information in relation to compensation claims and associated immigration issues, please contact us. We specialise in compensation claims and immigration law, and can provide comprehensive advice and forceful representation to guarantee you the best possible outcome.