Psychology Injury: Workers Compensation & Common Law Claims


Bullying, harassment, and violence can happen to anyone in a work environment. As a result, workers can suffer psychological injuries and may be entitled to workers compensation benefits.

In Australia, an employer has a responsibility to provide its employees with a safe and harassment-free workplace environment. They must take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure their workers are not subject to bullying, discrimination, sexual and physical abuse by their managers, colleagues, and supervisors.

In this article we’ll explore:

  • How to claim workers compensation for psychological injuries
  • What evidence is needed to support your psychological injury claim
  • What constitutes as psychological injuries in the work place
  • Common law claims for psychological injuries
  • Time limitations related to psychological injury claims

Related articles:

Image of lady experiencing depression (psychological injury) as a result of work related issues.

How to make a successful claim for a psychological injury

You should contact your employer and report your injuries as soon as you become aware of them. If you are unable to approach your employer to report your injuries, we can do this on your behalf and lodge a workers compensation claim for you. In New South Wales, a worker can only receive workers compensation benefits if they establish that:

  • Their injury has been caused as a direct result of their employment.
  • They have been diagnosed with a recognised psychiatric illness. For example, they have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Having sufficient medical proof is crucial to the success of your claim. This can include evidence of treatment, such as therapy or medication, as well as detailed medical reports outlining the extent and impact of your condition.

It’s also advisable to seek legal advice from a Workers Compensation lawyer to ensure that you’re taking all the necessary steps to make a successful claim. Overall, if you can establish that your psychological injury is work-related and meets the required threshold for acceptance, you should be entitled to compensation benefits such as weekly payments, lump sum compensation, and coverage for medical expenses and lost earnings.

Important note to consider:

It is more difficult for a worker who has suffered psychiatric injury to prove their claim than it is for a worker who has suffered physical injuries. Merely experiencing stress, anger and anxiety at work does not automatically constitute grounds for a workers compensation claim. A worker must provide sufficient medical evidence to prove they have received a psychiatric diagnosis from a medical practitioner.

A worker is not entitled to workers compensation if their psychiatric injury arises as a consequence of a physical work-related injury. If a worker has suffered both psychological and physical injuries because of their employment, they are entitled to receive benefits for only one of these injuries.

What evidence is required for a Psychological Injury Claim?

Supporting Documentation Needed for a Workers Compensation Claim

When making a workers compensation claim for psychological injury, it’s crucial to provide the necessary supporting documentation to ensure the best possible outcome.

The most important piece of supporting documentation is medical evidence, which should detail the extent of the injury and the required treatment. Psychiatric assessments by qualified professionals are also essential to providing evidence of psychological injury. Reports on any traumatic events or incidents involved in the claim process should also be included.

Ensuring that the supporting documentation is presented in a clear, concise manner is important to a successful compensation claim for psychological injury. By providing sufficient evidence, workers can get the compensation benefits they deserve.

Medical Evidence Required for a Psychological Injury Claim

When making a workers compensation claim for a psychological injury, it’s essential to gather appropriate medical evidence to support your case. 

To apply you’ll need a diagnosis from your doctor or GP, who must detail the condition in a Certificate of Capacity using the correct medical terms.The evidence should include a clear diagnosis of the injury, its severity, and confirmation that it was caused by work duties.

Medical records should detail the treatment required and its length. The likelihood of recovery should also be covered, including the potential impact that the injury may have on the claimant’s ability to work. Collecting this medical evidence from qualified health professionals is vital for a successful workers compensation claim. The evidence must be presented in a clear and concise manner and demonstrate that the injury was caused by work duties.

Psychiatric Assessments to Support the Claim

Psychiatric assessment to assess psychological injuries sustained by worker. Which is used to help with a workers compensation claim for psychological injury.

Psychiatric assessments are a critical element in supporting a claim for psychological injuries through workers’ compensation. 

The assessment is conducted by a qualified mental health professional, who evaluates the worker’s mental health and establishes any psychological conditions resulting from the workplace incident. It seeks to establish a clear link between the work-related event and the psychological injury suffered by the worker.

It also includes reviewing medical records, interviewing the worker, and conducting psychological tests to assess any psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, the assessment will identify any impact these injuries have on work-related activities, loss of earnings and the worker’s capacity to perform their duties.

Traumatic Events or Incidents Involved in the Claim Process

A workers’ compensation claim for a psychological injury may involve many types of traumatic events or incidents that can cause mental health injuries. These can include a single incident, such as an assault, robbery, or a car accident that caused mental harm. 

It can also stem from a series of events, such as bullying or harassment in the workplace, which can have a cumulative effect on a person’s mental health which often lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. Having clear details about these events will help with your claim.

What is a psychological injury in the workplace?

A psychological injury in the workplace refers to any mental illness, disorder, or condition that arises due to work-related incidents or exposure to stressors in the work environment. 

It is an injury that affects an individual’s psychological well-being, which could be long term or short term and may make it difficult to function effectively at work.

Causes of psychological injuries in the workplace

Psychological injuries are serious and have significant effects on a person’s mental health. Many people mainly associate such injuries with life-threatening events, but they can also be caused by other factors that occur daily in the workplace. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Workplace bullying and harassment
  • Excessive workload and pressure
  • Discrimination and prejudice
  • Poor working conditions, including lighting and ventilation issues
  • Exposure to traumatic events or incidents at work
  • Long working hours and a lack of rest breaks
  • Poor communication and ineffective management practices
  • Witnessing or being involved in accidents and injuries at work
  • Conflicts with colleagues or supervisors
  • The fear of job loss and financial insecurity

Types of Psychological Injuries in the workplace

There are various types of psychological injuries that a worker can experience in the workplace. These injuries may result from traumatic events or prolonged exposure to stressors, and can have a significant impact on the worker’s mental wellbeing. Below are the different types of psychological injuries:

  • Anxiety: Overwhelming feeling of fear or worry that can result in physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, and heart palpitations. It can lead to avoidance behaviour and affect a worker’s ability to concentrate.
  • Depression: Intense sadness and a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed. It can lead to physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep, and difficulty making decisions.
  • Irrational fear: Persistent and excessive fear that is not in proportion to the situation. It can lead to avoidance behaviour and a decrease in work performance.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Psychiatric diagnosis that can occur after a worker has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, and hyper-vigilance.
  • Psychiatric diagnoses: These can include a range of mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders that can affect a worker’s ability to function at work.

Benefits you can claim for psychological injury:

The types of benefits you will receive as a result of a successful psychological injury claim are as follows:

  • Weekly wages.
  • Medical expenses such as doctors’ fees, counselling with psychologist and psychiatrist.
  • Lump sum compensation (if establishes that injury is permanent).
  • Costs related to rehabilitation and retraining.

For more information about compensation payouts, visit our Workers Compensation Payouts Guide for NSW.

Common law claims for psychological injury

Succeeding in a common law claim for psychological injury requires certain essential elements. Firstly, a serious injury must have been suffered, both physically and psychologically. Secondly, the injury must have been caused by the negligence of the employer or another party.

Entitlements related to a common law claim for psychological injury

You may be eligible to receive a lump sum payment as compensation if you have suffered psychological injuries and the workers compensation insurer accepted your claim. The lump sum compensation is paid in addition to the weekly wages and medical benefits you may be receiving from the insurer, a lump sum payment will not interrupt these payments.

For claims made on or after 19 June 2012, a worker who has suffered psychological injury is required to establish that they have suffered a permanent impairment of at least 15% of their whole person resulting from the psychological injury, before they are eligible to make a claim for lump sum compensation. This is a requirement pursuant to Section 65A(3) of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW).

How to lodge a common law claim for psychological injuries in NSW

To lodge a common law claim for psychological injuries, you’ll need to show that your employer was negligent in their duty of care towards you. Here are the steps you need to take to lodge a common law claim in NSW:

  1. Gather evidence of negligence: This is crucial to proving your case. Hire experienced work injury lawyers who can help you collect evidence to support your claim.
  2. Lodge a claim with the Workers Compensation Commission: The lawyers at Alliance Compensation & Litigation lawyers will assist you in drafting and lodging your claim with the Workers Compensation Commission. This claim will include details of the alleged negligence of your employer.
  3. Negotiate a settlement – Once your claim has been lodged, your employer may wish to negotiate a settlement. Your lawyer will be there to represent you and ensure you receive a fair compensation payout.

It’s important to note that common law claims for psychological injuries can be complex. It’s crucial to have an experienced work injury lawyer by your side to guide you through the process and ensure you receive the compensation you’re entitled to.

What are the time limits for making a psychological injury claim?

Time limit for a psychological injury workers Compensation Claim

The time limit for filing a workers’ compensation claim for a psychological injury varies depending on the jurisdiction and laws governing the industry. In New South Wales, Workers compensation claims should be made within six months of the accident or injury.

Failure to report within the allowed time limit can lead to the denial of benefits and compensation. In cases where there is a delay in reporting, a worker may still submit their claim; however, they must provide a justification for why they were unable to meet the reporting deadline.

Time limit for a psychological injury work injury damages claim

In NSW, workers who have sustained a psychological injury in the workplace may be eligible to make a work injury damages/common law claim for compensation. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this type of claim has a time limit. There is generally a three-year time limit to claim compensation in court starting from the time the injury or condition first began.

How Alliance Compensation & Litigation Lawyers can help

We have had a significant number of psychological injury claims which were disputed by workers compensation insurers, and despite the challenges and the issues in these cases, we were able to negotiate with the insurer and achieve the best outcome for our clients.

Let our experienced Workers Compensation Lawyers represent you, as we have the knowledge and the experience to argue on your behalf with the workers compensation insurer. Call us today on 02 8764 1776 to chat with our friendly staff.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can I claim workers’ compensation for a psychological injury even if it is not directly caused by a single incident?

Yes, workers can still claim workers’ compensation for a psychological injury even if it is not caused by a single incident. Psychological injuries can result from a series of events or ongoing work-related stressors. It is important to demonstrate that the injury is a result of the work environment and meets the eligibility criteria set by the workers’ compensation scheme.

What types of documentation are necessary to support a workers’ compensation claim for a psychological injury?

To support a workers’ compensation claim for a psychological injury, various types of documentation are necessary. This includes medical evidence such as specific diagnoses, severity assessments, and confirmation that the injury was caused by work duties. Additionally, supporting documentation like psychiatric assessments, medical records, employer reports, and any evidence of traumatic events or incidents can strengthen the claim.

How can I prove that my employment was a significant contributing factor in the psychological injury?

Proving that employment was a significant contributing factor in a psychological injury requires gathering relevant evidence. This can include medical reports, expert opinions, and testimony from healthcare professionals familiar with the case. It is important to demonstrate the causal connection between the work environment and the psychological injury, showing that work conditions or events were a substantial cause.

Is it necessary to hire a work injury lawyer for a workers’ compensation claim for a psychological injury?

While it is not mandatory to hire a work injury lawyer, seeking legal representation can be highly beneficial. Alliance Compensation & Litigation Lawyers has the expertise in navigating the complex legal process. We can provide guidance, collect evidence, prepare a strong case, negotiate with insurance companies, and advocate for fair compensation. Having us by your side increases the chances of a successful claim outcome.

Get in touch to find out more HERE … or call 02 8764 1776
We can help.
No win, no fee.
We can help.
No win, no fee.

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