Having liability accepted for a psychological work-related injury can be very difficult, even more so because the connection or relationship to work can be (and is often) less obvious than in workcover claims involving only physical injuries. However in the following recent legal cases, the courts accepted that there was a psychological work-related injury present.
I recently asked an orthopaedic surgeon why he recently decided to cease accepting workcover patients; the surgeon gave an interesting but perhaps wretched answer, saying that workcover patients are much more difficult o engage and treat than general patients because “these injured workers are so angry at the [workcover] system”.
Many IME Psychiatrists, even those who testify for workcover insurers avoid diagnosing psychological / psychiatric conditions related to injured workers’ trauma. They generally do this by deliberately avoiding any tests that were designed to assess the injured worker’s mental condition in question. Is it any wonder the IME finds no evidence of for example, PTSD or major depression when s/he doesn’t even test for it?
While any workcover settlement (or closure of claim) does NOT take an injured worker’s pain and/or disability away; once the injured worker feels that s/he is no longer imprisoned and under constant scrutiny by the work-over system, there is then room for “living”. There is nothing like experiencing freedom from being surveilled, judged, made accountable, having to comply with directives from insurance vultures and…from being treated like vermin.
‘With all the obvious and sometimes deadly symptoms, there has to be some kind of disease [within workcover]’ said an injured worker recently. Everyday we hear from injured workers and at times dread reading their stories. Sometimes we receive 10 emails from badly treated injured workers a day. in the same or more serious situations. Did I say 10? Sometimes it’s 20. And the sheer number of badly treated injured workers means not only is that there something clearly wrong with the workcover system, but that it is systemic.
Unfortunately moderate to very serious workplace injuries continue to occur. Some of these workplace injuries result in substantial lost work time, permanent and partial impairment and disability, and … chronic pain. [Major] Depression, in particular following a more severe injury impacts not only the injured worker but also the worker’s family. Some workplace accidents also include traumatic events which can precipitate acute stress disorder or post traumatic stress disorder.
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.
The following story, shared by “L”describes the all too familiar feeling that, once on the workcover system, many of us become a prisoner of our own body and are being driven to what “L” can only describe as a “spiraling emotional unhealthiness and depression….”
Quite often the lack of a bonding and lasting doctor-patient or doctor-injured worker relationship is a central part…and —often— a central problem…of the workcover system. Quite often the injured worker did not choose to see their doctor or specialist, and the reverse is also true, quite often the doctor did not choose nor want to see this injured worker…
In Victoria, the impairment threshold for a primary psychiatric injury is a whopping 30%. Only if you have been assessed as suffering from a “serious” primary psych injury (i.e. 30% WPI or more) can you obtain a lumpsum in Victoria (currently around $77,000). What’s worse, if you cannot sue for additional compensation under common law if your injuries are NOT the fault of your employer (or any other person), leaving many severely psychiatric injured workers with very little or no compensation at all.