Every year, almost 4 million Australians make personal injury claims. From injuries in motor vehicle accidents and public liability incidents to work and medical negligence-related conditions, many people seek justice and compensation to help them recover.
Many of these people will manage the health, social and financial flow-on effects that can come as they move through the process of making a legal claim – as they are fortunate enough to have a support network to lean on.
For others, injuries can be severe and circumstances complex with problems arising and persisting long after they’ve left hospital. If they don’t have an adequate support network, there can be longer lasting and greater impacts.
Unexpected knock-on effects
Research from the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales found that personal injury problems can have serious negative knock-on effects, such as:
- financial strain or income loss (in 28.8% of cases)
- stress-related illness (23.2%)
- relationship breakdown (7.2%)
- having to move home (4.4%).
Olga Gountras is the National Manager of Slater and Gordon's Social Work Services. Olga and her team have helped more than 2,000 clients over the past nine years. This free national service helps those who have experienced life-changing injury or illness to overcome address ranging from financial distress to social isolation, including the risk of homelessness, depression and suicide.
Financial distress is the most common issue that Olga and her team work on with their clients. “After being injured, most people believe they will recover and get back to their lives quickly,” Olga explains. “For many of our clients, sadly, this is not the reality, they have to live with debility which prevents them from working, long term or permanently. Recovery can take much longer than anticipated.”
“Being out of the workforce for long periods, while trying to maintain their life as it once was, has led some clients to get into major financial debt, with a number being evicted because they’re unable to meet their rent or mortgage repayments.”
“We’ve had experiences where clients haven’t shared with anyone that they’ve become homeless and have been living out of a car or on the street.” For these clients, once referred to our Social Work Service, we have been able to connect them to local services to address their financial and housing needs, both in the long and short term.
Mental health issues and social isolation
Mental health issues and social isolation are also common after a personal injury.
“Clients who live with disability such as an acquired brain injury, have developed chronic health conditions, or are struggling financially can become disconnected from friends, family and their community. They’re no longer able to socialise as they once did,” Olga points out. “These unanticipated consequences can lead to relationship breakdowns, stress-related illnesses, and even thoughts of suicide.” Through the support of our Social Work Service, our clients have been able to access counselling and increase their support network in the community which improves their wellbeing.
When and how to get help
Olga recommends that anyone in distress should reach out for support as soon as possible. “You’re not alone and shouldn’t feel ashamed. Let your lawyer – or any other trusted support person – know what you’re going through. We understand the challenges and are here to help.”
While compensation and seeking justice is an important part of the process for personal injury clients, addressing the flow-on impacts is just as crucial.
“I’ve seen the short-term and long-term impacts of an illness or injury on many aspects of a person's life,” says Olga, who worked in acute and rehabilitation hospital settings prior to her nine years at Slater and Gordon. “These injuries and illnesses don’t happen in isolation. The long-term emotional and social impacts can be significant. If not addressed through accessing necessary support, the results can be serious and life-changing.”
“It’s these issues and crisis situations that we help to manage and, more importantly, aim to prevent.”
How we can help
Slater and Gordon founded its free Social Work Service in 2009. We are proud to be the first and only private law firm in Australia to have introduced such an initiative, and it’s become an important adjunct service to our no-win, no-fee legal services.
Olga and her experienced team of four are based in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
- help over 300 clients annually, who are referred to them by Slater and Gordon lawyers across the country
- assist clients primarily via telephone, whilst linking people with support services in the community
- work closely with Slater and Gordon’s legal team to identify those at risk.
Their work is broad and individually tailored to each client. It can include:
- referring to a range of services for financial, practical and emotional support
- linking people with disability support services
- arranging short-term and long-term housing support
- helping clients find and consult with appropriate medical and health practitioners
- providing responsive crisis support for clients.
“Every client has unique needs but what’s common among everyone is the need to feel genuinely listened to and heard,” says Olga.
“We’re privileged to have the freedom to work with a client with any issue of concern for them.”
“People don’t expect to receive this kind of service – especially one that is free and not governed by time limitations – from a law firm. It’s why I’ve worked here for nine years and others in our team for seven; it’s a testament to the value the firm places on helping its clients beyond just their case.”
Learn more about our Social Work Services or get in touch if you would like to discuss a legal enquiry.