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A man with chronic shoulder pain after lifting heavy items at work

Can I claim compensation for chronic pain?

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Chronic pain and chronic illnesses are not well understood. Many that suffer from such conditions often think there’s nothing they can do. Depending on how the pain came about and how it affects your life, you may be able to claim compensation.

What is chronic pain?

Pain is typically caused by an injury or illness of sorts, but sometimes the origin can be unknown. Many of us will suffer acute pain throughout our lives, though it usually only lasts for a short time. But many also experience chronic or persistent pain that lasts longer. And it’s arguably one of Australia’s fastest-growing medical conditions.

As recognised by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), chronic pain is known as persistent long-term pain that continues at least three months after an injury or illness.

Whether it be in your joints, bones, muscles or nerves, it often starts with an injury or illness – and it’s more common than you might think.

Reality of living with chronic pain

About one in five Australians live with chronic pain (more than 3.2 million people), but the impacts are more than just the pain itself. As chronic pain sufferers will attest, it has a debilitating impact on all parts of your life including work and relationships.

In fact, people with pain are five times more likely than those without pain to be “limited a lot” in daily activities. And many with this pain also commonly experience depression, sleep disturbance and fatigue as a result.

Turning to chronic pain management can help you regain control of your life and help you return to normal. But it’s not always easy to get proper pain management without the appropriate finances.

The good news is, depending on the circumstances of your injury or condition, you may be able to get help from your state’s compensation schemes like WorkCover or through your superannuation insurance policies.

Is chronic pain a disability?

The answer to whether chronic pain is a disability or not depends on what context the question is being asked.

For example, when referring to social security benefits like the disability pension, according to Pain Australia, in most cases chronic pain itself is not defined as a category of disability (though the injury or illness that caused it may be).

But when it comes to claiming on insurance benefits held within your superannuation, often known as total and permanent disability (TPD), chronic pain can also be considered as a disability, particularly if it prevents you from returning back to work.

Can I claim compensation?

The short answer is yes. But it depends on what caused it as to what type of compensation you’re entitled to claim.

If the injury or illness that caused your pain is work-related, you may be eligible to make a workers’ compensation claim. The challenge with this, however, is you have to be able to show a connection between the workplace, the injury/illness and the pain.

Your superannuation total and permanent disability insurance policy can also help – and sometimes it may be your only path of recourse if it wasn’t caused by work or because of someone else’s negligence.

This is because to claim TPD insurance benefits, you don’t need to prove that the injury or illness was anyone’s fault. But you do need to show that your chronic pain or illness stops you from working in either your current job or any other job that’s within your education, training and experience for the foreseeable future.

Note: if you have more than one superannuation fund, you may be able to claim a TPD insurance benefit from both, subject to eligibility.

Read more about understanding TPD insurance through superannuation and what to do if your TPD claim is rejected.

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If you are from Queensland you can learn more on our Queensland Superannuation Page