BC Workers Compensation Law – for Workers
For the Worker
Any person injured at least in part because of the negligence of another person or organization may make a claim for compensation through the courts against that person or organization. Most commonly, this occurs after a car accident, or a fall on private property. So long as the other driver or homeowner has sufficient insurance, a lawyer will be able to assist the injured person to obtain appropriate compensation for the injuries, loss of income and out-of-pocked medical expenses, etc.
If a person is injured while working, however, they cannot use the court system to claim compensation. With very few exceptions, all injured workers must claim compensation through the Workers Compensation Board (known as “WorkSafeBC” or “the Board”). Compensation includes medical benefits like physiotherapy and medication and wage-loss benefits for the time a worker is unable to work due to accident-related injuries. Most lawyers in British Columbia will not help injured workers with their WorkSafeBC claims because the WorkSafeBC system does not pay for legal costs and this area of practice requires patience, passion and a high degree of specialized knowledge.
A worker’s compensation claim cannot be managed like a personal injury claim. There is no wrongdoer. There is only a large administrative organization managing many different aspects of the worker’s claim. Each of these decisions made in the life of a claim are made by a different person. Unfortunately, these decision makers are unable to see the collective impact of the many different decisions made in the life of a worker’s claim, which removes personal accountability from their decision-making. They are also required to work quickly through large claim volumes. As a result, the wrong decision is sometimes made. According to WorkSafeBC’s statistics , the Review Division varies approximately 20% of Board decisions, meaning that on average approximately 20% of these original Board decisions are wrong.
If a worker feels the wrong decision has been made, there are two levels of appeal. The first is the Review Division. The second, highest level is the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal (“WCAT”). If a worker disagrees with a Board decision, they must submit a Request for Review form within 90 days of receiving the Board decision. If a worker disagrees with a Review Division decision, they must submit a Notice of Appeal (Compensation) form within 30 days of receiving the Review Division decision. If the worker misses either deadline, the Review Division or WCAT may refuse to hear the appeal.
Requesting a review, however, does not guarantee that a worker will receive more compensation. The Board operates under a complex set of administrative laws, policies and procedures. They are difficult even for the most experienced lawyer to understand. Therefore, it is vital to retain someone with experience working inside the WorkSafeBC system and with a proven success rate advocating for injured workers.
1. WorkSafeBC statistics are available for public review online: www.worksafebc.com/claims/review_and_appeals/review_division/statistics/default.asp
Before being called to the British Columbia bar in 2009, Rebecca was a WorkSafeBC intern Review Officer for two terms. She rendered over 100 decisions, which may be viewed online. She went on to work a further year in the WorkSafeBC prevention department, preparing administrative penalties against employers whose failure to abide by safety standards endangered the lives of British Columbia’s workers. She understands not only with the complex set of laws, policies and procedures governing workers compensation in British Columbia, but also WorkSafeBC and the WCAT’s inner workings. She is an effective trial lawyer, a skilled advocate for her clients and has won key section 257 determinations on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants in various personal injury tort claims.