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Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) covered by WorkCover?

    10 August 2021

    At Zaparas Lawyers, we often assist clients who are struggling with the psychological effects of having experienced or witnessed a traumatic incident at work. 

    Many of our clients don’t realise that they are just as entitled to WorkCover benefits as workers who have suffered physical injuries. 

    Below is a short guide about PTSD, what it is, the risks of PTSD in the workplace and how to claim WorkCover benefits for work-related PTSD. 

    What is PTSD?

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying or traumatic incident either as a single event or over an ongoing period. 

    It is common for people to experience some symptoms of PTSD for days or weeks after a traumatic incident, but most will recover on their own without the need for medical intervention. A person suffering from PTSD, however, may continue to experience symptoms many months or years after a triggering incident.

    A person suffering from PTSD may experience some or all the following symptoms:

    •    Intrusive memories: Recurring and unwanted flashbacks or memories of the traumatic incident.

    •    Psychological effects: Anxiety, irritability, being easily startled or frightened, trouble sleeping or trouble concentrating.

    •    Negative changes to thinking and mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities, detachments from friends and family, self-destructive behaviour, feelings of hopelessness or feeling emotionally numb.

    •    Avoidance: trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic incident or avoid places, people or activities that remind you of the incident. 

    Causes in the Workplace

    Some Victorian workers, such as the police, firefighters and paramedics are at a heightened risk of ongoing exposure to traumatic incidents because of the unique nature of their work.

    This does not mean workers outside these industries aren’t also at risk. Workplace bullying, harassment or verbal and physical abuse is a serious risk to employee’s mental health in any workplace.

    Is PTSD covered by WorkCover?

    Yes. The WorkCover insurance scheme covers Victorian workers who suffer physical and/or psychological injuries, including PTSD, arising out of or in the course of their employment. 

    WorkCover benefits are available to all workers, regardless of whether you are employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis.

    It’s your employer’s responsibility to obtain WorkCover insurance on your behalf.

    WorkCover is a “no-fault” system, meaning you do not need to establish that your employer or a third party was at fault to access WorkCover benefits. 

    If your WorkCover claim is accepted, you may be eligible to 3 broad categories of benefits:

    •    Weekly payments of compensation if you’re unable to return to work or return to your pre-injury hours; 

    •    Medical and Like Expenses, including consultation fees with your psychologist and/or psychiatrist; and

    •    A lump sum claim for a permanent impairment. 

    You may also be entitled to a further lump-sum claim for common law damages. Your entitlement is based on a two-step process of demonstrating, first, that you have suffered a serious injury and second, that your injury was caused by the negligence of your employer or a third party. 

    How do I claim WorkCover for PTSD?

    Making a WorkCover claim for PTSD is the same process as any other work-related injury. 
    Our previous blog, Lodging a Workers Compensation Claim in Victoria, provides some helpful advice on making a WorkCover claim in Victoria. 

    As this guide explains, there are three steps to begin your claims process:

    1)    Firstly, report the incident in which has caused your PTSD symptoms to your employer. You should report the incident in writing as soon as possible and within 30 days. 

    2)    Secondly, consult with your doctor about your symptoms. It’s important to explain to your doctor what has happened at work and what you believe has caused your symptoms. If you’re unable to work, obtain a WorkCover certificate of capacity from your doctor.

    3)    Finally, prepare your WorkCover Claim Form and give it to your employer (along with your certificates of capacity). You can obtain a copy of a WorkCover Claim Form from the WorkSafe Victoria website, your local post office or your doctor.

    Give us a call- We can help.

    Lodging a WorkCover claim can be a daunting and stressful process for any workplace injury. When it comes to psychological injuries like PTSD, however, you might feel completely overwhelmed.   

    At Zaparas lawyers, we specialise in WorkCover claims; from lodging new claims to disputing unfair decisions of insurers, our specialist workers compensation lawyers can guide you through every point of your WorkCover claim and help you back onto a path to recovery. 

    We’ll take the stress out of preparing your claim form, liaising with your insurer, and will ensure that your entitlements, like weekly payments, are calculated correctly- maximising your compensation. 

    Call us today on (03) 8527 0200 to arrange an obligation-free appointment with one of our specialist WorkCover lawyers.