Before I was a personal injury lawyer, I was a teacher.
I had always enjoyed helping others and so completing my degree in education seemed like a natural progression for me in terms of career choice.
In my final year of studying teaching, “social justice in education” was my topic of choice for my Honours thesis, and after completing my degree, I decided to pursue this concept further by studying law.
Whilst studying law, I worked part time as an early childhood educator in a local childcare centre, working with babies and also toddlers up to four years of age.
I have personally experienced day in and day out both the physical and emotional pressures that come with being an educator in Australia.
As often is the case in life, we end up working in areas we never planned for, or in my case, ever imagined.
I am a ‘personal injury’ lawyer, and as part of my every day job, I assist many teachers and childcare workers who have been navigating both motor vehicle injury claims and state workers compensation claims.
From a workers compensation perspective, typical injuries that I see in the ‘classroom’/ schoolyard setting include knee injuries (generally from ‘wear and tear’ over time at work), low back injuries (from undertaking activities such as lifting and assisting children), psychological injuries (typically from work place stressors and unfortunately, in some cases, bullying), and one worker I assisted in the past had sustained a significant head injury from being hit in the back of a head by a rogue ball whilst on yard duty, which led to substantial long term work restrictions.
It is incredibly useful that I have the background teaching experience that I do when assisting injured workers, as I am able to draw on my own experiences of classroom life, the physical demands of the job, the emotional pressures (which I have certainly lived myself) and draw on my own experiences to not only empathise with my clients, but ensure that I am able to maximise their claim for compensation and ensure that they receive all of their statutory entitlements.
It is helpful for me to think back to my time in the classroom when wearing my ‘lawyer hat’, as I have an intimate knowledge of what is actually required of teachers in the classroom, both physically and emotionally, which is invaluable when I am gathering medical evidence on topics such as physical restrictions, and determining what type of work duties in the classroom setting would be suitable for injured workers who have ongoing restrictions for example.
All too often insurers do not appreciate the active nature of teaching duties. Gone are the days where teachers sit at the front of the classroom and impart their knowledge to their students by way of lectures. Most teachers now have a ‘co-learning’ approach with their teaching style, which involves physically moving about the classroom and learning environment – which at times is often outside of the four walls of the classroom.
Also, especially when working with the younger years, teachers who physically crouch down to their students’ level when engaging with them find that their students are much more receptive to engaging and learning. So being a teacher is actually more physically involved than people would realise.
One teacher I assisted with a workers compensation claim had a knee injury which significantly debilitated him from moving about his classroom as he otherwise would have liked. For a period of time, a ‘teaching aid’ was able to be provided by the insurer in the form of a classroom assistant who was able to help with the day to day classroom life, shifting heavy equipment and any other physical task that was required. This took the pressure off the injured worker who was then able to focus on the content of each lesson plan and manage his injury whilst actively being able to work in the job he loves.
It is important to be creative when assisting injured workers get back to doing what they love at work, and for us to work with insurers to ensure that health needs of workers are met. Insurers are increasingly open to listening to workers needs, as ultimately it is their goal also is to assist in getting people back on their feet and into the workplace in a meaningful way.
Navigating a workers compensation claim is complex and not straight forward. Seeking legal advice is important to ensure that all aspects of your claim are covered.
Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers are highly skilled in workers compensation matters. Talk to one of us today and find out how we can help. Simply call us on 82121077. or register your details here and we’ll be in touch soon.