The first year after a medium to severe workplace injury


Further to John McPhilbin’s article about the Cycle of Despair, the model that we  all believe offers a fairly accurate representation of what many injured workers are forced to endure in the dysfunctional workers compensation system, I’d like to briefly resummarise an article we posted on our forum about what a medium to severe injured worker typically undergoes and how they are affected within the first year(s) after a workplace injury.

The first year after a medium to severe workplace injury

Within the first twelve months of injury you can expect that:

  • The injured worker has become increasingly alienated from colleagues and the employer whom they now strongly feel has abandoned him/her
  • The injured worker’s expectancy that their injury would be “short term medical care” has been quashed
  • The injured worker’s “relationship” with the workcover case manager will increasingly become strained, compromised or untenable. By now most injured workers will have restraining orders against their case manager (ie.all contact via solicitor, all contact in writing only, no phone calls..)
  • Many injured workers have by now seen multiple providers, sometimes with conflicting goals, and may now have incompatible diagnoses. Worst of all is the so called “doctor shopping” on the part of the workcover insurance to find any means possible to have an “alternative diagnosis” in the insurer’s favour (think “it’s in your head”, it’s “pre-existing”, “old age”, “wear and tear”, “there’s nothing wrong”)
  • The injured worker has become concurrently irritable but also both passive and dependent. Some have become enraged. Some have become extremely depressed or a combination of all…
  • The financial picture has become very bleak and is only worsening, adding to the desperate situation and let’s not forget the continued threats injured workers receive about further “cut offs” (i.e. denied home help, denied transport, medication “review”, delayed, denied MRI, scans, surgery, cut off physio, psychology services etc)
  • Many injured workers have now become sedentary, de-conditioned and very unmotivated, let alone hopeless
  • The injured worker spends increasing time sleeping, ruminating (about workcover) and perhaps things like over-eating..
  • The injured worker has become focused and pre-occupied upon issues of rights and authorisation of care rather than issues of improvement – why? because of the retaliatory nature of workcover insurance! It’s a constant fight to obtain legit “entitlements”/”benefits”; conciliation after conciliation; frustration sets in; anger; and it’s really about basic human rights!
  • The injured worker has become very conflicted as to where to invest trust and hope
Within this first year of a serious injury, many injured workers have all but established a new personal identity. Their values and belief systems have been altered, and their belief that they can change the course of their future have been eroded, courtesy of a totally sick workers compensation system.


The next year can be even more ominous, and available time will again be filled tracking medication, pursuing and fighting endless battles with the insurer to obtain the most basic, legitimate entitlements. The injured worker becomes even more  focused and pre-occupied upon issues of rights and authorisation of (medcical) care.

At this stage it’s like the war is on. Workcover insurers will do anything to cut off legitimate entitlements such as physiotherapy and psychological counseling; and at a time where you need it the most. Constant harassment, bullying and intimation on the part of the insurer (i.e your case manager, the rehab service provider) will be the norm and will start making you feel mentally ill (think PTSD, depression) and many injured workers will loose what little trust they had left in the system. Tactics, scheming and virtually illegal scams will be used to force severely injured workers to return to work, even though your own treaters certified you unfit for all work; many injured workers will at this stage develop serious secondary psychological injuries such as major depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder, PTSD and even paranoia. Looking over your shoulders will become a reflex, you will feel like you are constantly being spied upon (surveillance), and many – like myself, will slowly retreat into their “shell”, become utterly numb and disconnect from the world.

It is during the period following the previous year (the 1st year of the injury) that we see behaviors that reflect a sense of increased helplessness and decreased hopefulness.

And so the Cycle of Despair goes on

With that in mind, you may need to know if you are feeling increasingly agitated, irritable, impatient and indecisive, napping more often and staring blankly at the television, this is “normal”. Because the workers compensation system makes you sick.

Consider that you can become markedly more depressed with the start of yet another year that we (seriously injured workers) interpret as empty and without change or direction….

Now, if you add to this medium to severely injured workers who, for example, also happen to suffer from established and diagnosed primary psychological injuries as well (i.e severe PTSD), it is a recipe for disaster.

Secondary psychological injuries quickly develop (especially without early medical and intensive intervention) and you are set to become what I call “a mess”; only to be repeatedly INJURED and TRAUMATIZED by the way you are being treated by the workers comp system in the first place.

Seriously injured or ill workers are really trapped in dysfunctional workers compensation systems which sadly offer a very bleak picture of mental health. It is truly and endless Cycle of Despair, since we become trapped in a never ending cycle of neglect and abuse that works against our ability to recover.


[post dictated and entered by T on behalf of WCV]




8 Responses to “The first year after a medium to severe workplace injury”

  1. ALLIANZ you guys have just lost your number one position for being turds of the month .

  2. I have to tell you, since finding this site I have felt much less isolated, and have got back some of my own fighting spirit. Watch out Workover!

    • Thank you Pauline, not just for your kind words, but for UNDERSTANDING what I (and you, and people like us) are forced to endure day after day and for showing me at least that I am successful at getting my message through and that is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE which ultimately means that a pattern has been established by workcover insurance companies. In the interest of saving big money, insurance companies and their employees turn a blind eye to the treatment of injured people whose care is entrusted in them…

      And this, folks, simply has to STOP.
      Share your stories, tell it like it is, tell it from your heart and help us put a stop on these horrible practices, please.

      workcovervictim August 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm
  3. This could be a good description of exactly how my mental health has deteriorated after ten years – can you believe it – locked into this nasty system. Thank you for your continuing efforts on this site. I know only too well how it stirs up the ptsd and depression to go back over these experiences. I only yesterday opened up the shed where all my worldly goods are stored while I am homeless and awaiting the behest of a broken public housing system. It broke my heart and shattered my mental health once again coming face to face with the reality of my life and what workplace and workover bullying have done to me. No sleep for me last night, and loads of physical pain.
    Beware you workover torturers, one day the rage of all of us will unite and we may tear your heartless system down, and you with it.

    • You should never feel “locked into” the Workcover system. At any point we can search for work on our own. We’re actually fortunate for any help that we get from them. No matter how meagre. The best advice is to hire a lawyer and if they’re not good enough, find a new one that is good enough. We’re not locked into their system! we’ve always got alternatives. Don’t lose heart, there are a stack of alternative solutions out there! Just gotta look for them.

      • Stevie, these alternative solutions unfortunately do not apply to seriously injured workers, and I mean serious. I am talking here about such a severe injuries that you are legally disabled (i.e. 30% total body impairment or more in Vic) and simply cannot function without support for even basic stuff such as personal hygiene, food preparation etc. And obviously have no prospect of working in any capacity.
        When you still have a capacity for work, yes there are alternative solutions,and you remain in control. If you have a small or straight forward injury such as a broken leg, workcover does work. But the system becomes totally dysfunctional for people who are medium to severely injured and need a prolonged time on the system to recover, and for those who have suffered catastrophic injuries (like me) and are in there for the long haul.
        You have to remember that insurance companies are businesses who solely focus on maximizing their profits, BY paying you (the injured workers) as little as possible. It is a MYTH that seriously injured workers “get looked after” – it’s simply not true – in fact the opposite happens has the insurer will seek harder to deny even the most basic of care in order to mitigate their costs.

        I think it is very important to realise the difference between types of injuries.

        workcovervictim August 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm
      • Hi Stevie

        One sad fact for any injured worker is that once you’ve been on workers compensation potential employers view you as a liability. They simply don’t want to take the risk to hire someone else’s problem. Yes, I’ve heard it so many times from employers its not funny. Once you’re damaged goods you’re always damaged goods in the eyes of many.

        • I totally agree I was in the construction industry for the majority of my working life, doing hard physical work and then i stuffed my back .I cant get any work now because for one my back cant do the hard work anymore and the other is no one will hire me with my injury. All so the system says that you must tell the employer if asked if you have any injuries .So what chance have you got.