Workcover settlements and depression


As we have discussed in a previous article, many seriously injured workers believe that a workcover settlement is a windfall, a welcome piece of good fortune or personal gain, and that it will compensate them for all that they feel they have lost and endured (and still will lose and endure in many cases); and will somehow offset the limitations they will have in the future.
what many seriously injured workers don’t understand or realise is that -of course-  it does not and that later realisation is quite devastating, and can bring about what is called a second wave depression.

Workcover settlements and depression


The relationship between stressful life events, our mind and body’s reaction to stress, and the onset of clinical depression is a complex one. Some, but not all, people develop depression after a stressful event in their lives. Either positive or negative events can become a crisis that precedes the development of clinical (major) depression. This is why some injured workers become more depressed after settling their workcover claim than they were during the course of care for that injury.

Let us explain: first and second wave depression

There are basically two major times when depression makes an appearance in the case of a (more serious) work-related injury.

The first wave of (major) depression emerges when the injured worker feels their  injury “ruined my life and no one cares.”

But there is also a second wave of (major) depression, one that emerges as a more serious injured worker reaches their “goal” – usually the goal is a workcover “settlement”, but it could equally be for example, another, last, major surgery. As is (major) surgery, so is settlement for the more seriously injured worker : a mixture of hope, fear, confusion, concern, and desperation.

More seriously injured workers will sort of speed up or accelerate their activities to reach a positive goal, be it a workcover settlement, or major surgery. Conversely, more seriously injured workers will also pull away as they reach a goal that they consider to be negative. For example, a person may become excited and very motivated as (their) wedding approaches; while another person may become so bewildered at the prospect that they literally run away at the very last minute.This phenomenon is called the “goal gradient”.

Workcover claim settlements are in fact exactly the same way. If an injured worker perceives that their/a settlement is a solution to the problems that have been dragging on the last couple of years (or at least many many months), they will invest in their physical capacity (get fitter),even look at the possibility of reducing their medication, be talking to people about a new job (or hobby) and they will start making viable future plans.

But the fact is that many (more seriously) injured workers are not really able to mentally visualise a future plan,… and now that they are to be released from the workcover hell, now that they may/will always have pain and limitations, they will feel helpless with a degree of hopelessness, and they become (very) depressed once again. This is called the second wave depression.

Settlement times can be extremely depressing as it may just well be a dread of the only future those more seriously injured workers see remaining for them. At the end of the day, no amount of compensation will fix your injury and pain.

Somewhat related article

Workcover: three common delusions


[Post dictated by WCV and manually transcribed on behalf of WCV]


18 Responses to “Workcover settlements and depression”

  1. I am now into the nineth month of workcover and am so desperate to get out.I had the best job ever but will never return and lost my marriage of 27 years,I try to live on next to nothing and seems everyday is a fight for my rights.If not for my amazing little grandson I honestly don’t think I’d still be here.I always saw depression as a weakness but now I know just how real it is.

  2. @FU_CGU

    Thank you so much for your detailed and informative reply!

    You’re so right when you said “but at what cost to your mental health”. It’s so unfair that injured workers have to be put through even more stress and mental anguish just to get some results – and even then, it seems the results are usually beyond pathetic!

    I don’t know if I’ll ever get back into my pre-injury career path due to the severe psychological damage caused by my work. But I’m wondering whether I should be trying to just finalise everything as soon as possible to prevent further permanent damage – which could ultimately lead to never fully returning to work (even in a basic role/position).

    It really is a terrible and corrupt system… They do a good job at making us, the injured workers, feel like the criminals!! Life at the moment is pure hell and I would give anything to be out of this limbo land and back into a fulfilling job where I can feel productive and normal again.

    As bad as it is that we’re all going through the same hell, it’s reassuring to know I’m definitely not the only one going through this.

    • @PlainJane,

      We all do what we can to support each other. Even though it is a hellish nightmare, I always found some comfort in the fact that it is not aimed individually at us (even though it sure as hell feels like it) it is just the same tactics used time and time again. I also found it to be less stressful knowing what to expect. At least we then know where the enemy will be targeting their attacks.

      Hang in there, there will be an offer and be ready to respond when it does.

  3. @PlainJane,

    WorkCover, for the seriously injured, is never about rehabilitation. It is all about cost containment or future cost containment.

    Any injury that has a psych component is particularly alarming for the insurer as the potential for ongoing treatment expenses is unpredictable.

    To answer your question regarding WPI assessment, your lawyer will organise that for you. In my case it took two & a half years for my lawyer appointed IME to be satisfied my impairment was permanent with no likelihood of any significant improvement.

    Then the insurer uses corrupt IMEs to “muddy the waters”, lie, misreport, in fact do anything to minimise any potential damage from the report from your expert witness and so the game goes on.

    The insurer will always want to settle a claim. The only question is for how much? They will pile on the pressure before a conciliation conference and then offer an extremely low amount. It’s sad, it’s wrong, but it is the way it is.

    Psych injuries, in some jurisdictions, have a higher threshold before compensation is payable as a WPI. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to work out that insurance company IMEs always seem to find a WPI just under that threshold!

    Settlements can be made/accepted/rejected in many forms: (a) a lump sum to go away which is a figure pulled out of the air. (b) after WPI is agreed, maybe via a Medical Panel, the offer could be made up of WPI payment, your legal expenses to date, your outstanding medical expenses and a discounted component for future payments for “X” number of months/years.

    There are a lot of unknowns for the injured worker as well. If you keep pushing and fighting you may well win in the Commission or the Courts and you may receive a “better” outcome – but at what cost to your mental health? However, you may have no option and have to fight on for your own reasons.

    If you keep fighting and pursue every legal option available to you, and you lose – a cost judgement against you will bankrupt most people – that is unless you have several hundred thousand dollars spare that you are happy to risk.

    Talk everything over with your psych and your lawyer. You cannot “force” the insurer to settle. If you advise the insurer you want to settle, they will apply massive pressure on you soften you up for a low offer.

    It is a soul destroying, fucked up, corrupt system that will actually make your injury worse.

    Welcome to WorkCover!

  4. I can relate to so many of these stories… I’m now wondering how much more of this process I can take as every appointment, phone call and dr/psych visit is revisiting the cause of my psych injury and continually causing me to suffer the same trauma I was originally put through.

    By settlement, do you mean lump sum payouts for permanent impairment or the bigger (more scary sounding) Common Law claim?

    Are you able to request an assessment for permanent impairment before WorkCover organise it?

  5. its all good, I had several income protection policies through superannuation that have kept my head above water. Have also put myself through tafe for retraining. I really don’t want to settle outside the courtroom. I want my case to go before the magistrate and hopefully get the opportunity to tell the court exactly what I have gone through in regards to the workcover system

  6. just over a month now until my court date regarding re-instatement of payments. The dragged out court system is the worst part of it. Imagine trying to drag out a court case for a speeding fine or something to that affect for over 2 years. I think that’s where a lot of the mental anguish comes from, the waiting, the suffereing and the stress all connected with the situation.

    If I could change anything about the workcover system it would be shorter waiting periods for the courts. At my first court appearance we were ready to go in, the other side made a crap offer, we denied and were prepared for court, next thing other side wishes to adjourn, this was last july, and it got adjourned till april this year.

    Its sad because clearly the defence were not ready on the court date

    • tashywashy, That’s just wrong you’ve had to suffer because of their incompetence or their way of putting Psychological pressure on you. I think the insurers term for this is ‘industry best practice’

      It’s bloody disgusting these insurers and their staff etc are still so unprofessional.

  7. @Fu_CGU – yeah, WCV had you in her thoughts when writing this little article… and a few others who recently managed to settle their long battles.
    I think most of us really want to get off the system, the quicker the better – as you rightly say, the system makes us sicker and sicker, both mentally and physically (dare I say) and there is just no way to try to recover (as best we can), whilst in this extremely adversarial, frustrating and head banging system, where we have to go to battle everyday for approval of basic care, deal with mind numbing correspondence and where we,indeed, become absolutely paranoid and even fearful.
    Given a chance I think most of us would prefer to settle for less and keep some sanity. Get off this evil system and putrid life really.
    The issue as I/we see it is that many injured people do become depressed after “settlement”. I suppose reality kicks in (that no amount of money or justice can fix your injury/impairment/disability/pain) and that you are still trapped in your own broken body.

    Many injured folks see their settlement/compo as an end-goal, almost like a magic wand… and fall apart soon after.

    I think it must also feel strangely quiet and empty the days and weeks or months after a settlement… getting out of bed and no longer needing to deal with workcover crap (or not as much save for medical), and no longer needing to look over one’s shoulder, literally… and no more bloody terrorising IMEs.

    But the question is how does it feel to be released from the workcover world? is that not part of your identity (if you have been years on the system)? Does one get an ID crisis? Is it scary?

    workcovervictim3 March 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm
    • @workcovervictim3,

      I will try to explain how post-settlement is for me.

      Your wrote:

      Many injured folks see their settlement/compo as an end-goal, almost like a magic wand… and fall apart soon after.

      . Absolutely. In a strangely perverse way, the hope of one day “getting out of the system” became my reason for living. I think, if I had lost that hope or believed that I would be in the system indefinitely my suicidal ideation may have taken a more serious turn.

      you are still trapped in your own broken body

      While that is true at some level, I feel that this is counterbalanced by a certain “freedom”. So where I believed I was trapped by my injury (and the system), I now feel I am only restricted by my injury and have the opportunity to explore treatment that can ease or assist with my restrictions. That is a VERY different feeling.

      My injury involved a significant psychological trauma, and a few facial fractures, so it is impossible for me to separate out the depression felt after settlement from the initial psych injury. However, at some level, I had developed a belief that “everything will be different once I’m out of the system”. There was an initial reaction “what?”, quickly followed by a thought “what now?” After several weeks, I tried to complete a simple task requiring some degree of concentration (something I had done hundreds of times pre-injury) – and I couldn’t do it. It was that moment that I understood my residual injury and that led to being very depressed.

      But the question is how does it feel to be released from the workcover world? is that not part of your identity

      – excellent question!

      I am trying to change my “self talk” from “I am an injured worker” to “I was an injured worker”.


      Does one get an ID crisis?

      – From my point of view, I wouldn’t call it “crisis”, however, I have no idea of who I am, what I will be capable of, where I fit in etc etc – but these are exactly the same thoughts I had while in the system.

      Is it scary?

      . Yes and no. Anytime anyone tries anything new, involves fear to some degree. A new computer game, a new recipe – whatever. At least being out of the system is safer space to tackle any fear.

      By the way, the surveillance kept going for several weeks after the settlement. I think they have a last taken their bat and ball (and their mini cameras) and gone home 🙂

    • I have intentionally not asked my solicitor how much I am likely to get..
      My case isn’t a simple workcover but also TAC, Car accident while working…
      So far I have been put through the wringer by workcover and feel pretty much worthless, I was waiting on approval for treatment and have now been advised I have to attend an IME for clarification that the treatment is warranted… Guess because my wages payments have ceased they don’t think it is worth the treatment… After Workcover have finished I will then fall under TAC another round of IME’s????
      I feel that once I have settlement I will be able to move forward, If I receive enough to pay out my modest mortgage and a bit for medical expenses I will be happy…
      I would really like to be able to walk away now, but, I can’t. My teens have been helping a fair bit over the last 2 years, but they are nearing time when they will be moving on,

      • @Wendy

        I feel for you. You cannot hope to “move forward” while the bastards are constantly harassing you.

        I know it is not about the money, but that is the only way this brutal and heartless system measures anything!

        How long you fight and how much (or how little) you can afford to accept versus your own sanity and mental health is a really tough one. There will come a time, hopefully sooner than later, when the stars align and it feels time to get out.

        A settle offer can come at anytime, there is no logic behind it, be ready to consider your options when it happens.

        • @FU_CGU
          So true, I had no idea this could be so hard…. If I was doing this for the sake of doing it I would walk away now, but I can’t survive on nothing. I had so much going for me, work was going really well, I set up my own company… and thats where most of my problems lie…

  8. Great article! I hoped I’d be one of those people that got better and moved on after a settlement but it just didn’t happen. Oh well life goes on

    • Hey WCV, I agree with JO – great article!

      After settling my case, I found it really difficult, because my life had become fighting these corrupt bastards, day in day out!

      Once it settled, I felt that I should be able to recover as a significant source of aggravation to my psych injury was gone!

      Not so. However, what I am grateful for, is now I can start to address the real issues of my PTSD and depression without the constant re-aggravation of my case manager, the insurer, their lawyer and their lying and cheating IMEs and rehab providers.

      I did settle my claim (I was still screwed, but something I could live with) It may take me months, it may take me years, with the right psychologists and psychiatrists, but this is the first time since that fateful day I submitted my claim, that I feel hopeful that one day, I may be able to function without the fear, the anxiety and the hypervigilance that has ruled my life for the past several years!

      I supposed that I am one of the lucky ones as my physical injuries were comparatively minor compared to my considerable psych injury (I don’t think lucky is really the right word 🙂 )

      One thing that I have discovered, that hopefully can help others, do not give up on yourself.

      If you can settle your case, with your trusted lawyers’ input, it might give you the opportunity to start healing without the re-aggravation from all the insurance company bullshit.

      I do admire those incredibly strong individuals that “fight on irrespective of the insurer’s bullshit and lies” – I am not that strong, I really want to start feeling like a person again.

      Everyone has to make a decision that is firstly right for them and secondly for their loved ones.