Psychiatric injuries in the workplace

A person can sustain serious and lifelong psychiatric injuries as a result of things that have occurred in the workplace or in the course of employment.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other psychiatric conditions can result in numerous psychiatric symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks, fatigue, lack of concentration and mood swings, just to name a few. These can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to work and life in general.

Claims for work-related psychiatric injuries can be quite complex and involve various legislative and procedural loopholes and difficulties. It is important to get legal advice to ensure that your rights are protected.

A person may also be entitled to make a superannuation claim that covers mental illnesses under a Total and Permanent Disability Claim.

Am I entitled to bring a compensation claim for a work-related psychiatric injury?

To qualify for a workers’ compensation payout, you must prove that you have a psychiatric injury and that the psychiatric injury:

  1. was a result of your employment; and
  2. did not arise out of “reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way“ by your employer.

The legislation that governs these claims indicates by way of examples that an employee may be deemed to have taken reasonable management action in a reasonable way where:

  • Action was taken to transfer, discipline, redeploy, demote, retrench, or dismiss a worker.
  • A decision was made to not award or provide a promotion.

Medical and factual evidence (including but not limited to documents, social media and witness statements) may need to be provided to support the claim.

Common Causes of Work-Related Psychiatric Injuries

Common causes include, but are not limited to:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Overworking
  • Bullying
  • Violence
  • Witnessing a traumatizing event
  • Sustaining a physical injury

What Happens if the Claim is Accepted?

If the claim is accepted, the insurer will pay you for your time off work and for your medical expenses. You may also be entitled to a lump sum payment if you suffer a permanent impairment.

If you intend to sue the employer, you may be entitled to a common law payment. When claiming for a common law payment, you may be entitled to receive payment for the following:

  • Past loss of income.
  • Future loss of income.
  • Past medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses
  • Travel expenses
  • Past commercial care
  • Future commercial care

Relevant time limits

An application for workers’ compensation must be lodged within 6 months from the date you first consulted a medical practitioner. Failure to do so may result in the claim being rejected.

Time limits also apply to bringing a common law claim for damages. A common law claim would usually have to be brought within three years from the date of the injury. Some exceptions apply and we can provide further advice in relation to this.

Where to Now?

Given the complexities with these sorts of claims, we would strongly recommend getting legal advice.

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