How successful are workers compensation claims for psychological injury?

Work can be a health hazard psychologically, as well as physically. Whether the cause is conflict with others, bullying, work overload, job insecurity, exposure to violence, sexual harassment or burnout, a stressful workplace can be a nightmare for those affected.

If you’ve tried to resolve the issues through the appropriate channels but nothing has changed and you believe the situation is causing you psychological harm, you may be contemplating the possibility of making a claim for work stress. But first, you’ll need to consider whether you are eligible to make such a claim, what your options are and how likely you are to succeed.

Psychological injury & workers compensation

Workplace stress and psychological injury can be caused by a number of different issues including:

  • bullying and harassment at work
  • experiencing a traumatic event
  • violence in the workplace
  • work pressure.

A rapid rise in psychological injury claims some years ago led to a progressive tightening of the criteria for eligibility.

It’s clear that you will not be able to claim workers compensation for psychological injury unless you have acceptable medical evidence that you’re suffering from a psychological or psychiatric disorder as a result of your job.

It’s not enough simply to have a medical certificate claiming you need time off work due to ‘work stress’. You will need to be properly assessed by an accredited specialist.

When compensation is not payable

Workers compensation claims for psychological injury are not accepted if the problem is caused, or mainly caused, by ‘reasonable management action’. This definition encompasses action taken by the employer to transfer, demote, retrench or dismiss you, if your employer can successfully argue that these actions were reasonable. Reasonable action can also include requiring you to participate in a process of performance appraisal.

Whole person impairment & psychological injury

To be eligible to claim for mental stress, you also need to be assessed as having a psychological injury that ‘impairs’ at least 15 per cent of your ‘whole person’. The system of assessing a person’s injury, in terms of ‘whole person impairment’, was introduced to make the process fairer so that people with comparable injuries would receive similar payments.

Your impairment has to be assessed by an accredited medical specialist who has been trained in the precise method used to determine the degree to which your psychological injury has affected your life and your ability to function. In deciding how severe your condition is and how long it’s likely to last, the medical specialist can take into account evidence from medical reports, test results, family members and others, as well as what you yourself say about your situation.

Why you need experienced legal support

Needless to say, the process of establishing that you have a case for a psychological injury claim can be a complicated and stressful one. Support and advice from an experienced legal team who is on your side can be of considerable value.

A lawyer who is familiar with the issues and challenges in workers compensation cases will have the insight and knowledge to listen to you and consider the types of difficulties that are likely to arise, guiding you toward the best approach. It can be a great relief to have someone argue on your behalf, represent your interests and negotiate the best outcome possible.

Successful psychological injury claims

There have been a significant number of recent successful psychological injury compensation claims for stress, despite the difficulties associated with these claims.

The types of benefits that are included in workers compensation payments cover the following:

  • medical costs including fees for doctors, psychologists or counsellors
  • payments for loss of income
  • rehabilitation and retraining costs
  • lump sum payment if the injury or disability is permanent.

According to government statistics, over 20,000 mental-stress claims in a recent two-year period have been accepted and paid out in Australia. The median psychological injury payout is reported to be a little over $21,000 for 2012-13, though payouts of $90,000 or more are not uncommon.

Speak to a workers compensation lawyer today

Our experienced team of workers compensation lawyers are experts in psychological injury cases and can give you a realistic assessment of what you can expect. We’ll fight to get you the best possible result. Call us today on 02 9601 0088.

See how we can help you

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