Injured worker wins compensation for psych injury & obesity

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The following NT legal workcover case demonstrates (again) to what lengths workcover insurers will go to deny liability for an injury, more so in cases of psychiatric injury. A psychiatrist (IME) hired by the workcover insurer found the injured worker experienced symptoms of depression as a result of his “difficult circumstances”, as opposed to having major depressive disorder. The insurer stated that the injured worker did not have a psychological injury, or that in the case he did, it was not caused by his (primary) low back injury.

Injured worker wins compensation for psych injury & obesity

A NT injured his (right) knee and his lower back (disc prolapse) in a fall at his workplace, in 2008, for which liability was accepted by the workcover insurer.

The injured worker unfortunately continued to suffer from severe (nerve) pain is his (right) leg, hip area and buttock. Because of his injury (pain, use of neuropathic pain medication etc) he gained a huge amount of weight -92kg to as high as 150kg), became extremely depressed (even suicidal), lacked energy and had to resort to using a walking frame.

The injured worker subsequently claimed compensation (2nd claim) for a psychological injury, which the workcover insurer (and as such employer) disputed.

The case ended up in Court.

The Northern Territory Magistrates Court thankfully found the severe pain that resulted from the injured worker’s physical injury directly contributed to his psychiatric condition and awarded workers’ compensation for major depressive disorder.

The injured worker told the Court that after his workplace injury his weight “ballooned” from about 92kg to as high as 150kg (60 kg),  that he had “greatly reduced” energy levels, and that he now needed to use a walking frame to get around.

The injured worker also told the Court that, since his workplace injury, he suffered/suffers from low self-esteem, low motivation, and that he felt/feels useless. In addition the injured worker stated that his medication also (negatively) affected his concentration and physical and mental endurance (or stamina).

The Northern Territory Magistrates Court also heard that the injured worker had tried to commit suicide, and that he had been diagnosed by his treating psychiatrist as having major depressive disorder.

This poor injured worker’s workcover insurer (and therefore also his employer) however contended that the injured worker did not have a psychological injury, or that in the event he did, it was not caused by his (primary) low back injury.

“The opinion of IME Psychiatrist Dr John Roberts was that [the injured worker] was experiencing depression but that this was a reaction to his circumstances arising from his severe neuropathic pain and was a symptom, not a diagnosis.”

To back up their so called “evidence”, they used the fact that a psychiatrist IME hired by the workcove insurer found that the injured worker experienced symptoms of depression as a result of his “difficult circumstances”, as opposed to having major depressive disorder. Of note too is that this IME stated that because the injured worker’s symptoms varied / fluctuated and that he was capable of engaging in ‘social activities’ proved that the injured worker did not have the mental disorder of major depression (WTF).

Thankfully the Court (Magistrate J Neill) did find that the injured worker was/is “quite profoundly depressed” and as a result of his work related back injury. The Magistrate also found that the injured worker was a high suicide risk, regularly feeling hopeless and worthless.

Of note is that the Magistrate also found that the IME (workcover) psychiatrist – Dr John Roberts – only examined the injured worker once, and never treated him, whereas the injured worker’s own psychiatrist had been treating him for over two years.

“I have no hesitation in preferring [the treating psychiatrist’s] assessment of her patient and his symptoms over that of [the employer’s psychiatrist]”

“I find that the severe neuropathic pain experienced by [the worker] over the years from 2008 directly and materially contributed to the development and persistence of the major depressive disorder.”

You can read the full text of the legal case here: PB v Andersfurn Pty Ltd [2014] NTMC 027 (11 November 2014)



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3 Responses to “Injured worker wins compensation for psych injury & obesity”

  1. This IME Dr J Roberts has already been flagged numerous times and is on our ‘flagged IME List“. No wonder! What a ridiculous “opinion” indeed: the injured worker experienced symptoms of depression as a result of his “difficult circumstances”, as opposed to having major depressive disorder – well think about the logic behind this statement/opinion: if this poor man had not been injured, he would not have found himself in “difficult circumstances” and would not have become so depressed – duh? How can you not become depressed when you suffer from a very painful permanent injury, from side effects from medications, from gaining 60 kg, from having lost your career, hobbies and life as you once knew it? This case simply highlights the extremely dirty tactics used by workcover and their allies in order to mitigate losses (deny claims). Reminds me a bit of the terrible landmark case .This workers compensation landmark legal case asserts the causal relationship between psychological symptoms and links those symptoms to the physical injuries (and unfortunately death in this tragic case) and the claim for compensation for those injuries (and death). Since that time, it has been well recognised in this jurisdiction that an injury can set in train a series of events. If the chain is unbroken and provides the relevant causative explanation of the incapacity or death from which the claim comes, it will be open to the Compensation Court to award compensation under the Act.

    Shame on the workcover insurer and the pathetic, greedy IME Shrink!

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  2. I went to an IME shrink in Victoria who gave me the same bullshit report, the insurer even used it in part to cut weekly payments. After going to the medical panel the Psychiatrist gave more or less the same diagnosis as my GP of many years, he said I had chronic depression and now an adjustment disorder. No wonder after the way the insurer has treated me over the years! No wonder I am wary of people and no wonder I’ve been very close to ending my life on several occasions. I have a permanent injury and these assholes cut my payments saying my injury was only temporary!!

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    • Jo, don’t let these bad people be the cause of your own death. If you suicide they win. That’s what they want. They want us all to kill ourselves as well as our families. A mass suicide would be a cause of celebration to them – to all the stakeholders – the CEOs of the insurance companies, the case officers, the barristers, the IMEs, Workers Comp and the State Government. They are all evil people. Don’t let them win. Don’t give them the reason to pull out the Cuban cigars, high fives and pay rises. The main players are rolling around in ridiculous amounts of wealth and like drug cartels – greed and power is their driving motivation. You sound like you are going through hell. But I hope you have support to not give up. They will try to intimidate, harass, overtly follow you, make your life difficult as much as they can get way with. But on their websites and ads they will look so nice and squeaky clean – a massive blindside to the severe corrupt and criminal behaviour really going on behind the scenes all kept in-house between all the major stake holders set to benefit from it. This website really helps and there are so many like you suffering as well in a sick twisted evil system that forces us to feel like the criminals when we are the damned victims. Keep alive please.

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