Work-related psychological injury is the second most common cause of workers' compensation claims in Australia. According to WorkSafe, it currently accounts for 11 per cent of workers' compensation claims in Victoria.
An often difficult part of the WorkCover system is when someone puts in a psychiatric injury claim for workplace stress and that claim is subsequently rejected.
There are a number of reasons why stress claims might be rejected and the difficult part is separating out the consequences of the psychiatric injury caused by employment and the consequences caused by other factors.
Associate Linda Hanley and Law Clerk Kathy Galanos were recently successful in assisting a personal care attendant in overturning a rejected stress claim. The claim arose out of the treatment of the worker by her employer when an unsubstantiated complaint was made against her by a resident who was known to make frequent complaints.
Upon receiving the complaint, the worker was suspended without information or opportunity to address the complaint. The employer then provided no further information nor follow up to the worker until a request was made for the worker to attend a meeting the next day. No opportunity for support or other assistance was provided.
The worker sustained a mental injury arising out of the treatment of the employer and her mental state subsequently deteriorated.
As she required time off work, she made a claim for medical expenses and payment of weekly payments. Her claim was rejected. The worker then brought proceedings in the Magistrates' Court where the worker, lay witnesses and doctors gave evidence over the course of a few days. Judgement was given in favour of the injured worker in December 2016.
The employer then appealed against the decision to the Court of Appeal. However, happily for our client, they withdrew the appeal. The worker will now receive all her entitlements and the employer will pay legal costs of both proceedings.
Our team of expert lawyers are increasingly assisting workers with stress claims, and are often in a position to advise people whose claims have been rejected.
If you have suffered a psychological or psychical illness as a result of workplace stress, call our free Adviceline on (03) 9321 9988.