A recent decision from the Federal Court may enable public service employees previously not protected by the Comcare system to access compensation for their expenses and lost earnings.
It has been a long-held principle that military personnel and other public servants could not access compensation for psychiatric injury if the “reasonable administrative action” of management was a cause of their injuries. This principle is similar to the approach adopted by the Victorian WorkCover system, where employees must establish that their psychiatric trauma did not arise as a result of reasonable management action before they can access compensation.
However, in the recent decision of Lim v Comcare, the full bench of the Federal Court found it was insufficient for an employer to reject an employee’s entire claim because of one cause of their injury. Instead, they have asked the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to determine whether the central basis of Ms Lim’s injury was an inappropriately handled performance appraisal she was subjected to by her employer.
While the case does not definitively overturn the mandate previously established by Hart v Comcare, it does give federal employees a glimmer of hope where there previously was none. The issue may be canvassed further, as the Comcare insurer still has the opportunity to refer the matter to the High Court for determination.
If you would like more information about claiming under the Comcare system or to discuss an injury, you can contact a lawyer directly on (03) 9321 9988.