Combative approach to workers compensation psychological injury claims is causing harm

ALA

The current combative approach taken to managing claims made for psychological injury under the NSW workers compensation scheme must be fixed, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“We welcome icare’s recent announcement about plans to trial a new model for managing psychological injury claims, however it is yet to be seen whether this approach will be effectively implemented in a timely manner and work to prevent harm to already injured workers,” said Mr Shane Butcher, spokesperson for the ALA.

“The current system is failing workers with psychological injuries. Managing a claim for psychological injury on behalf of an insurer requires an entirely different set of skills, processes and systems, and a specialised response is needed.”

On behalf of the ALA, Mr Butcher today gave evidence to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice’s 2022 Review of the Workers Compensation scheme which is focused on psychological injury.

“We are concerned that the data available about the number of workers compensation claims being made for psychological injury is unclear and contradictory,” said Mr Butcher. “The data available does not indicate that there is a concerning increase in the number of claims for psychological injury, considering both NSW’s population growth and the challenges experienced during COVID-19.

“The real concern is the way that claims for psychological injury are handled. It is the ALA’s firm belief that the manner in which claims are currently handled, the conduct of the investigations, and the manner in which claims are disputed, all lead to unnecessary harm of the injured person.

“An injured worker who breaks his or her leg is not required to constantly prove their injury, yet anyone who makes a claim for psychological injury faces continual barriers. The worker is asked to retell their story to case officers, investigators, specialists, lawyers and others, and, in our experience, liability is more routinely declined than for physical injuries.

“A specialised response to the management of psychological injury claims is urgently needed to prevent further harm.”

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