Psychological or psychiatric injury claims: What you need to know

Workplace injuries are not limited to just the physical and they can also include psychological or psychiatric injuries caused by excessive workloads, bullying and/or harassment, and other unfair actions carried out by management or colleagues.

Workers suffering from psychological and psychiatric injuries may be entitled to compensation providing the injury occurred at work and was the result of either a single event or prolonged and repetitive actions over a period of time.

What constitutes a psychological or psychiatric injury?

For a worker’s injury to be deemed psychological or psychiatric in nature and therefore compensable under the Workers Compensation & Rehabilitation Act 2003, the event or events found to have caused the injury must have occurred during the course of the individual’s work or be work-related (such as bullying or harassment at the hands of colleagues outside of the workplace or on social media).

What factors does WorkCover consider when approving or rejecting a claim for compensation for a psychological or psychiatric injury?

WorkCover (or the individual’s insurer if they are self-employed), will refer to the criteria outlined in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 to determine the legitimacy of the claim.

In the Act, a psychological or psychiatric injury is not considered to be one that arises because management has taken reasonable action that is directly linked with a worker’s employment. Similarly, it is not considered to be an injury arising from action taken by an insurer in relation to a compensation claim.

Put simply, a worker cannot successfully make a claim for compensation for a psychological or psychiatric injury if that injury was the result of a reasonable decision or action made or taken by management or through the actions of an insurer in relation to an application for compensation.

The type of reasonable action or decisions that this refers to includes action taken to retrench, demote, transfer or terminate a worker, or the decision not to promote a worker or grant them a leave of absence or transfer.

How can a worker make a claim for compensation for a psychological or psychiatric injury?

For a worker to maximise their chances of claiming compensation from WorkCover or a self-insurer for a psychological or psychiatric injury, they must be able to supply the insuring body with adequate details of the factors they believe led to the injury being sustained.

Some details that will strengthen a case include:

  • the date/s and time/s that the action/s or event/s occurred;
  • witness statements;
  • evidence including emails or text messages, voice messages or video, or other documents or files that will help piece together the events leading to the injury; and
  • medical records pertaining to the injury and instances of it being reported to a medical professional.

These will usually be supplied to the worker’s employer by WorkCover so that the employer has an opportunity to respond.

After the employer has had a chance to respond, the worker will be able to provide additional information before a final decision is made by WorkCover or the self-insurer.

Each application for compensation for a psychological or psychiatric injury is assessed individually, and on occasion, WorkCover or the self-insurer may also seek further information from an independent medical examiner for a neutral opinion. It is the worker’s responsibility to attend the appointment to ensure the claim can be processed thoroughly and accurately.

If you have sustained a psychological or psychiatric injury in the workplace and want to make a claim for compensation, contact our experienced compensation lawyers who can help you to navigate the process on (07) 4052 0700.

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