Badly treated injured worker commits suicide

workcover-and-suicide

A key element in suicidal behaviour or idealisation is the feeling of helplessness, which arises from prolonged periods of [extreme] stress or emotional upset. For many [seriously] or ill  injured workers this may include constant abuse from the employer or the workcover insurer [case manager], constant denials for even the most basic of medical and like care/services; …

…poverty [including for example drastically decreased wages or cut of weekly payments], terrible living conditions [some live in caravans], poor general health [i.e. lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise] the [serious] injury itself, or even the real or  perception of permanent disability.
It is the absence of hope for improvement that can and does precipitate depression and suicidal thoughts for many injured workers.

Both injured workers workcover case managers (et al.) and employers really ought to seriously reflect on how they treat and manage injured workers.

Take the following tragic case whereby a Northern Territory injured worker who suffered a wrist injury took his own life because of the way he had been treated by his employer.

Badly treated injured worker commits suicide

The legal case

Tania Marie Luxford & Others v Gebie Civil & Construction Pty Ltd [2014] NTMC 031 (18 December 2014)

The essential issue in this most tragic recent case is that many workers are badly treated before and especially after a workplace injury by their employers, and how this reprehensible treatment as well as the injury can cause serious psychological injury, which often negatively affects recovery, be it mentally and/or physically.

We all know how our work coupled with physical and psychological injuries can result in an injured/ill worker suffering from major depressive disorder, causing him/her to lose his or her (will)power to  live, and to, tragically, commit suicide.

Facts of the case

In March 2011, a truck driver injured his right wrist at work, and subsequently underwent surgery and rehab.

The injured worker was unfit for work for about 6 months. He never returned to work but resigned from his job and committed suicide about 8 months later in November 2011.

The now deceased injured worker’s wife as well as 3 of his children subsequently claimed death benefits ( under s62 of the Northern Territory workers’ comp Act). They alleged that the injured workers’ tragic death was in effect caused by “psychological stress as a result of the right wrist injury, its treatment and consequent disabilities and the adverse effects and limitations on his capacity for work and lifestyle“.

More importantly, the deceased injured worker’s family also stated that he suffered from severe psychological stress because his boss was unsympathetic and dismissive of his injury and of his pain, and he also felt unsafe at work.

The Hearing

The Court found that the injured worker’s mood “got a lot worse” after his wrist injury and that he was scared of returning to work. At the same time he was also worried about not being able to support his family.  The Court heard that because of these reasons the injured worker suffered from major depression, which caused or at least contributed to his tragic suicide.

Of note is that this injured worker did have a history of mental illness, and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2000, also following a workplace injury (back injury).

To add insult to injury and death, the poor injured worker’s employer (and obviously its workcover insurer) denied the injured worker’s suicide was workrelated, and denied that he suffered any psychological injury or stress.

Thankfully the Court (Magistrate J Neill) found that the injured and now deceased worker was in fact suffering from major depressive disorder prior to his tragic death.

Magistrate J Neil stated”

“I am satisfied on the evidence… that the [injured/deceased]worker was exhibiting and people in his life were noting symptoms of depression over a period of up to five months prior to the death, and particularly in October and early November 2011”

“I find that the very fact of the occurrence of the wrist injury to this already vulnerable man, his ongoing pain, and his concerns about the impact of the wrist injury on his capacity to work and support his family, all materially contributed to his major depressive disorder.”

“The worker’s suicide on 9 November 2011 was not an isolated acute impulsive act.”

You can read the full text of this case here: Tania Marie Luxford & Others v Gebie Civil & Construction Pty Ltd [2014] NTMC 031 (18 December 2014)

 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to this poor man and his family, and we hope that in publishing this tragic case, injured workers’ employers (and their insurers) will reflect on how they treat their injured workers and what tragic consequences it can have. After all, we (injured workers) are all HUMANS who one day went to work to earn an honest living, only to be injured instead. There is really NO need to treat injured workers badly, on the contrary – injured workers deserve to be treated with compassion, empathy, dignity, respect and in a humane way. Employers and insurers should treat all injured workers like they would like to be treated if they were injured, or if one of their loved ones was!

 

[Article dictated by WCV and manually transcribed on her behalf]



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6 Responses to “Badly treated injured worker commits suicide”

  1. Nothing will stop employers, insurers or workcover treating injured workers badly. Only when injured workers stand together, and hold them accountable for failing to act in good faith will anything change for the better. Remember the government gave them the green light to do whatever it takes to stop injured workers making claims in the hope that businesses would save on premiums and therefore hire more staff. We all know that is a fallacy – any excuse will do.

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    • HI Just Me, I feel his pain being lost, hopeless,injured,treated like a cheat by case manager ,wondering why me,wishing that maybe if i just did not go to work that day,sick of pain24/7,sick of no sleep ,sick of feeling like life has passed me by,sick of my self and feeling like my husband should have better because i am broken and i dont think i can be fixed and you can forget Life Line and other places ,why ?? because if you realy have had it you dont ring believe me not one single person picked me as feeling like this ,Not One i gave my self away at my drs,yes i am still here ,but if i get a letter or a phone call from QBE TMF I have a panic attack i cannot stop crying and it brings everything back that caused my PTSS, I feel all the same feelings it is very upsetting because i then feel like i have not made any head way in treatment feeling like is this very wearing feeling that Suicide is the End Game why ? because to QBE TMF IT IS A GAME to pay or not to pay to die or stay and play the Game is too sad to think about at the moment i just got stopped for right knee replacement by IME he is on the list as i said a GAME

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  2. Hi Suzanne. I’m sorry you are feeling really bad. And yes you’re right it is a game to the insurers. I hope you can find some comfort knowing many of us have had the same experience – you are not alone. Hang in there. Do you go to the IWSN meetings? I went to one but intend going to more. It truly is amazing how many injured workers have been treated so badly.
    So badly they may never work again – that can’t be good for the nation. Sooner or later the government has to wake up and make changes to stop the insurers from bullying injured workers and once and for all hold them accountable for failing to act in good faith.

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    • Hi,
      I also feel like Suzanne, it does wear you down and no one understands why you are crying all the while for nothing, cant sleep and have to go to this Dr, that Dr all arrogant pompous ignorant and not really Dr’s at all, just in it for the money.
      What is IWSN meetings ? I have no family here so would be good to talk to people going through the same thing.

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