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Long-term injury or impairment

For: Claimants Advocates Information seekers

The Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act (Seafarers Act) provides for payment of lump sum compensation for permanent impairment and non-economic loss resulting from a work-related injury or illness.


A claim for permanent impairment cannot be determined until the initial claim for workers’ compensation has been submitted and accepted by your employer.

Impairment is the loss, the loss of use, or the damage or malfunction of any:

  • part of the body
  • bodily system or function
  • part of a bodily system or function.

Permanent means that the injury resulting in impairment is likely to continue indefinitely.

An impairment may be considered to be permanent when the process to recover is complete. This process includes the natural healing process, active (not palliative) medical treatment, and the full and final effect of recovery.

How to make a claim

You may claim for permanent impairment if you have an accepted claim for workers’ compensation.

To make a claim for compensation for permanent impairment and non-economic loss:

1. Complete the form

Complete the Claim for Permanent Impairment and Non-Economic Loss form (Seacare form 4) (PDF, 181.4 KB).

A separate claim form is required for each compensable injury or illness.

Claim forms can also be obtained from the master of the ship or your employer.

If you are having difficulties completing the claim form, seek assistance from your employer or doctor.

2. Include supporting evidence

Include supporting evidence with your application.

Original medical certificates must be attached showing the:

The non-economic loss questionnaire asks you and your doctor to provide a score under each category. You and your doctor must provide examples that show the impact of the work-related injury or illness on your daily living activities. You may enclose additional medical evidence.

3. Lodge the form

Lodge the form and supporting evidence with the master of the ship or your employer.

Assessment of the claim

Sufficient medical evidence exists

When there is sufficient medical evidence, your employer makes a determination on your permanent impairment claim.

When deciding whether an impairment is permanent, the employer must consider:

  • the duration of the impairment
  • the likelihood of improvement in the employee’s condition
  • whether the employee has undertaken all reasonable rehabilitative treatment for the impairment
  • any other relevant matters.

Insufficient medical evidence exists

If there is not enough medical evidence, your employer may refer you to an independent medical examiner to verify the causes of injury and assess the degree of permanent impairment.

The examiner is likely to be a specialist in a field relevant to your injury or illness and they are given relevant information about your claim, such as a case summary and medical reports. If you have other information that may help the examiner, such as radiological or other medical investigations, you can bring them to the assessment.

Time limit for a decision

Your employer must decide your claim for permanent impairment within 30 calendar days from the day your employer receives your claim.

If your employer notifies you in writing that further information is required to make a determination, the time limit may be extended. A request for more information must be made within 30 calendar days of receiving your claim.

If your employer has not decided your claim within the time limit and has not requested further information, your claim is taken to have been rejected. You can request a reconsideration of this decision.

Possible outcomes of a claim

Your employer may make a decision to:

  • accept liability for a degree of permanent impairment
  • consult with you about an interim payment, or
  • reject liability.

Types of compensation

Permanent impairment benefit

You may be entitled to receive a lump sum payment that is determined by your degree of impairment.

The degree of impairment is described as a percentage based on the concept of 'whole person impairment' (WPI).

Subject to certain exceptions, your injury must be permanent and assessed as having a level of impairment (WPI) of 10 per cent or more.

An assessment of permanent impairment can be undertaken by a legally qualified medical practitioner of your choice. You may want to obtain an assessment from a medical specialist in an area relevant to your specific injury or illness.

Your impairment must be assessed against the Seacare Guide to the Assessment of the Degree of Permanent Impairment. This guide informs medical practitioners about how to make an assessment and what different impairments are available for the full range of bodily systems and functions.

For more information, see:

If no methodology is provided for your injury or illness in this guide, the American Medical Association Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent impairment (5th Edition) (AMA5) may be used.

Non-economic loss compensation

If your claim for permanent impairment compensation is accepted, you may also be entitled to compensation for any non-economic loss you experience.

A non-economic loss payment is designed to compensate you for the effect your impairment has had on your life (pain and suffering).

For more information, see Compensation for non-economic loss—section 41 of the Seafarers Act.

Payment of compensation

Full lump sum payment

If your employer accepts a claim for permanent impairment, compensation must be paid within 30 days of the decision.

If payment is not made, interest is payable on the compensation amount from the end of the 30-day period until the day the compensation is paid.

Interim payment

An interim payment may be offered when:

  • you have an accepted claim for permanent impairment, and
  • your permanent impairment has reached a degree of impairment of at least 10 per cent but is likely to increase.

An interim payment is only payable where:

  • your impairment is not yet stable
  • your condition is not likely to improve
  • an interim determination has been made
  • you have accepted the offer of an interim payment.

In all circumstances, your employer will advise you of your review rights and provide reasons for the decision in writing.

If you disagree with the determination

If you disagree with a determination, you can ask for it to be reconsidered.

You need to apply for reconsideration within 30 days of the determination or apply for an extension of time.

For more information about this process, see If you disagree with a claim determination.

Electing to sue for damages

You can elect to sue the employer, a third party or another employee under section 55 of the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 (Seafarers Act), rather than receive a lump sum payment for permanent impairment or non-economic loss.

You cannot make an election to sue once the permanent impairment or non-economic loss payment is received.

Contact your employer for more information on this process.

An election to sue your employer, a third party or another employee cannot be revoked. Given the significance of this decision, you may wish to seek legal advice.

Invalidity retirement

Applying for invalidity retirement is usually the final step if you have been injured.

The Seacare Authority does not administer the invalidity retirement process. An application for invalidity retirement is managed by your nominated superannuation fund. You may ask your employer or their insurer to provide a recommendation to the superannuation fund administrator to support an application for invalidity retirement.

Page last reviewed: 27 April 2022
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Date printed 23 May 2022