When you are unable to work because of injury or ill health you may have insurance through your superannuation that you can access or you may have a private insurance policy. Most superannuation funds provide insurance cover for total and permanent disablement or TPD, death and income protection. You may also be able to access your superannuation account balance prior to the usual retirement age if you are permanently incapacitated from working.
Superannuation, disability and insurance claims are not always straight forward. At Turner Freeman Lawyers we have dedicated lawyers who work purely on superannuation and disability insurance claims to help you through the process. Insurance companies and superannuation trustees can sometimes be difficult to deal with if you are not familiar with the process. Our dedicated lawyers will take the worry out of making a claim and ensure you can access insurance benefits and superannuation when you need it most.
You will also be dealing with a Partner or Senior Lawyer in the firm not a junior lawyer or paralegal.
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Frequently Asked Questions
I have suffered an injury and unable to work. Can I claim?
Yes. When you are injured or ill and unable to work or enjoy your usual daily activities you may have insurance coverage that you are not aware of.
This can be in the form of total and permanent disability insurance attached to your superannuation, mortgage or other loan insurance, income protection or life insurance or other occupational specific cover.
These benefits are commonly available in addition to any workers compensation you may have received for the injury or illness.
Unlike other claims, when claiming for total and permanent disablement (TPD) you do not need to prove that the injury or illness was caused by someone else or that it is work related. You just need to show that the injury or illness is significant and has affected your ability to earn an income or has seriously impeded your ability to engage in your daily activities.
We are happy to assist and on a speculative or No Win – No Fee basis. You initial consultation with us is obligation free. You will also be dealing with a Partner or Senior Lawyer in the firm not a junior lawyer or paralegal.
What can I claim?
There are 4 broad areas of insurance coverage that may assist when you become injured or ill or when a loved one dies.
- Total and Permanent Disability (TPD)
- Income Protection
- Life Insurance
- Accident and Trauma
For some specific occupations including Commonwealth or State public servants and members of the military there is also a range of additional benefits available.
If you are injured while travelling you may have coverage through travel insurance. If you have a mortgage or other loan you may also have loan insurance.
If you are concerned about your working future due to your injury and if you wish to find out if your claim is worthwhile to pursue, the short answer is yes. In reality and from our experience from seeing first hand the bad outcomes that people achieve without lawyers, the answer is absolutely yes.
How can a lawyer help me with my claim?
A good lawyer will focus on whether he or she can justify their involvement in the case so that you can be confident that the benefits of using a lawyer will outweigh or far outweigh the legal costs.
If you have a very serious injury which clearly precludes you from working and will do so forever you may not or probably don't need to see a lawyer. However, your first consultation with us is free so we advise all our clients and potential clients to seek advice and at the earliest possible time to remove any doubt or worry about your rights or where you stand.
Time limits to lodging claims
This varies from fund to fund, and from insurer to insurer. While it is sometimes possible to lodge your application as soon as you stop working, you might alternatively have to show at least six months off work due to your circumstances. It is recommended that you seek legal help to ensure you are meeting all the correct requirements.
Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) cover
Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) coverage comes as standard in most super funds. It provides financial benefits to those who are no longer able to work in their usual occupation due to mental or physical disability or ill health.
To qualify for TPD benefits, you will need to show that you are unable to continue working in your usual job and any other occupation that fits your skills, training or education. Your incapacity does not need to be work related – for example, if you are suffering from cancer and are unable to work, you will still receive benefits.
Providing you meet the relevant criteria, you will be eligible to receive these benefits in addition to any early superannuation payments. These benefits may come as either a lump-sum or ongoing payments.
Before lodging any paperwork, it is recommended that you consult with a qualified, experienced legal professional.
Income Protection (TTD) cover
If you have temporarily become unable to work due to disability or illness, you may have a claim. Similar to TPD cover, income protection benefits provide financial support to those unable to work, in the form of either lump-sum or ongoing payments.
To qualify for income protection benefits, you will need to provide evidence of your illness or disability. As with TPD claims, your disability does not need to be caused by work.
Income protection benefits usually last for a maximum of 2 years, and generally pay up to 75% of your usual wage or salary. This of course varies from case to case, so it is important that you enlist the help of a legal professional.
Death Benefit cover
When a loved one passes away, the hardship following their death is often compounded if they were a source of income for their dependents.
All Super Funds in Australia offer benefits in the event of a loved one’s death. If you were financially dependent on someone who has passed away, you may be entitled to their super contributions and connected insurance benefits.
These benefits are designed to ease the burden of financial strife at this difficult time. It is recommended that you act to retrieve these benefits as quickly as possible, with the help of a qualified solicitor, to ensure the Super Fund pays all entitlements including refunding contributions tax paid by the Trustees from your loved one's super fund.
There are strict time limits that apply to disputing decisions made about the distribution of death benefits so you should seek urgent advice if you have received notification of a claim decision from the super fund.
If you are suffering through financial hardship, you may be able to access your superannuation early. The Department of Human Services (Centrelink) have systems in place to help those in dire financial need.
- Urgently need money to pay for medical expenses, disability-related expenses, palliative care or funeral expenses;
- Have been receiving Centrelink payments for at least six months and cannot meet your day-to-day expenses;
- Risk your home being sold by your mortgage lender;
You may be able to gain early access to your stored super.
You should contact the Department of Human Services direct on 1300 131 060 to see if you qualify and also speak to your super fund.
Superannuation claims process
Turner Freeman Lawyers make the process of investigating your rights, forming a plan and eventually enlisting the help of a lawyer that little bit easier. Here is a brief outline of how the process works:
- Do some quick research - It’s always wise to do a little reading before embarking on anything that involves Super Funds or insurance companies.
- Have a free consultation - Calling or sitting down with a legal expert is an extremely important step to take when considering making an application for early super payment or an insurance claim. They will be able to gauge where you stand, what the best course of action is, and what the likely outcome will be.
- Let Us take care of the rest - Once you have worked everything out with your lawyer, they will handle everything, including helping you fill out the forms and letting you know what else you may need to supply to build your claim. If there are any outstanding tasks you need to complete (e.g. attending a medical examination), these will be completed before submitting the paperwork.
Once everything is submitted, all you need to do is wait. Applications can take between weeks up to several months to process depending on the complexity of the case. Knowing that everything has been handled by a highly qualified, experienced professional should give you peace of mind. Only if your claim is successful will Turner Freeman Lawyers require a fee.
Time limit for receiving payments
If we advise you that you have reasonable prospects of success and that the claim is economically worthwhile to purse, we will send you a proper written advice and a proposal. Our proposal will set out, in plain English, a realistic estimate of how long we believe your case will take to resolve and the likely cost.
Generally speaking, most claims are able to be resolved within 2 to 3 months from when the claim starts. If the case goes to trial (which is highly unlikely) this can add a further 6 to 12 months to the time estimate.
If your case has to go to court, it will cost more than if it is accepted first up by the super fund or settles at an early stage. The more work which is done results in higher fees; however, we are always doing whatever we can to keep costs as low as possible. All of this is explained in our written advice along with realistic and reliable fee estimates.
Our fee estimates are usually at least 20% lower than our competitors from our past experience.
Also, we agree to charge a fixed fee including all expenses for the initial stage of the claim up to receipt of a decision from the super fund so you have certainty as to what your costs will be.
This will depend on the type of insurance cover you have and how much you are insured for. This information is usually included in the fine print of your insurance policy or statements.
My claim has been rejected. What can I do now?
Seek legal advice as strict time limits can apply for lodging an appeal which can be as soon as 28 days from the date when you receive the letter or statement of reasons for the decision which sets out the basis for the claim being rejected. The appeal process is a legal process. You will need a lawyer to advise you. We are happy to review the matter and advise you on a no obligation or "No Win – No Fee" basis.
Multiple accounts and multiple insurance policies
As long as each of your current funds or accounts are independent from the other, you should be able to claim on any/all of them at the same time.
We will also investigate all accounts and you may be entitled to rollover some accounts into one to make the process of accessing your money simpler. We will also refer you to a professional financial adviser if you do not have one to make sure your superannuation investment is maximised and protected. Please note we do not provide financial advice and it is prudent to seek advice from a qualified professional on financial or tax matters to do with your superannuation.
Turner Freeman Lawyers No Win No Fee policy
After we have investigated your claim at no obligation to you, we will then make a decision about whether we would be prepared to act for you on a No Win – No Fee basis. At that time, we will provide you with a proper written advice regarding your prospects of success and whether we are prepared to act for you on a No Win – No Fee basis.
Under our usual terms and conditions, No Win – No Fee simply means that we if take your case on, we will only be paid a reasonable fee for the legal work we have done for you at the end of the claim and only if you win.
In the highly unlikely event that your claim goes to trial and in the even more unlikely event that your case goes all the way to trial and you lose, we will not seek to charge you anything for all of the work we have done for you.
If we act for you on No Win – No Fee basis, this also means we will pay for all of the disbursements or expenses out of our own funds such as expert fees, doctors' reports, court filing fees and so on. Unlike other firms, we do not charge any interest on these disbursements or expenses which we fund and we are only repaid at the end of your case and only if you win.
In the highly unlikely event that your case goes to court and you lose, while you would not have to pay us anything, it is likely that the court would order that pay the other side's legal costs which could be a substantial sum.
Tax on the amount you receive
If you are withdrawing your funds before your Preservation Age (the ‘lockout’ age on your super policy – usually 55), you are likely to be taxed on it. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, such as in cases of terminal illness. It is a good idea to contact a finance or tax professional and go through your policy and your circumstances so you know where you stand.
Centrelink and WorkCover benefits
These types of claims do not usually impact on Workcover benefits, however if you have already received Workcover benefits then your entitlement to super insurance may be reduced as a result. In some cases you can receive both; it just depends on your policy.
Because any money received from your superannuation can count as income, payments may affect how much you receive from Centrelink. You should contact your legal professional or Centrelink to find out what impact the claim will have on your benefits.