Psychological Injuries and WorkCover - What Is Required To Make A Claim?

Psychological injuries can be sustained in the workplace just as physical injuries can and when a psychological injury impacts an employee’s ability to work, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation as a source of income and to cover medical expenses while they are not fit to undertake their usual duties.

Workers making a WorkCover claim for a psychological injury will need to be able to prove not only the existence of the injury but also that it is impeding their ability to work. Here’s what is required to successfully claim WorkCover for a psychological injury.

What is a psychological (or psychiatric) workplace injury?

A psychological or psychiatric workplace injury which is deemed compensable under the Workers Compensation & Rehabilitation Act 2003, is one where the event/s which are found to have caused the injury occurred during the course of the individual’s work or are otherwise work-related.

How are psychological injuries sustained in the workplace?

Psychological injuries can be sustained in the workplace due to any number of reasons, including:

  • workplace bullying and/or harassment by a colleague/s or superior either at work, outside the workplace or on social media;
  • stressful working conditions, such as extremely long hours without scheduled breaks or working on a project containing traumatic subject matter; or
  • a one-off, traumatic incident such as a robbery or violent crime occurring on the premises.

How will WorkCover assess claims for compensation for a psychological injury?

All claims for WorkCover will be determined against the criteria outlined in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 before an assessment is made.

WorkCover will assess the circumstances that led to the injury and whether they were lawful, or if bullying, harassment, discrimination or other unlawful and/or unreasonable events causing psychological occurred. For example, a claim of psychological injury due to workplace bullying where it was found that the worker was, in fact, being performance managed would not be eligible for compensation as it is within the employer’s rights to manage underperforming staff.

Other instances of reasonable decision-making or action taken by management (such as a redundancy, being overlooked for a promotion or not having leave approved) will also not be eligible for compensation.

How does a worker make a claim for compensation for a psychological injury?

A worker will need to build their case to prove how the injury was sustained and the direct link between the injury and their workplace and/or working conditions.

To put the strongest possible case forward, the claimant should include details about:

  • when the behaviour occurred (times, dates and places);
  • what type of conduct was involved, including specific phrases or actions used;
  • statements from any witnesses;
  • emails, text messages, messages from WhatsApp or similar apps, voice messages, videos and any other documents that act as evidence in supporting the version of the events which led to the injury; and
  • medical records and supporting letters from any medical professionals who have treated the claimant for their psychological injury.

The employer is given an opportunity to respond to the claim after they have had a chance to review the aforementioned evidence. The employee will then be given the chance to provide further evidence or additional information before a final decision is made by WorkCover.

Potential claimants should note that each application for compensation is assessed individually and WorkCover may also seek a second opinion or further clarification on the injury from an independent medical examiner. The worker must attend an appointment set up with an independent medical examiner to ensure their claim is processed in a timely manner.

If you have been injured psychologically in the workplace and want to claim compensation, contact our experienced injury lawyers in Cairns who can help you to navigate the process.

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