Until recently, when first responders (from paramedics, police and firefighters through to child protection agency officers) made a compensation claim in relation to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they were required to prove their injury was a direct result of their occupation before they could receive any compensation. However, on 20 May, that changed and the Queensland Parliament amended the Workers Compensation & Rehabilitation Act 2003 (the Act) so that, from that day forward, first responders suffering from PTSD have a quicker and easier pathway to access treatment and compensation under the workers compensation scheme.
We think that is some pretty good news.
First responders play an integral part in protecting and serving the community and the legislation was reviewed to make it quicker and easier for them (and other eligible employees) to make a workers compensation claim for PTSD. This change was supported by the increasing awareness that exposure to acute and cumulative trauma exposure impacts mental health and wellbeing.
The Act has been amended to include presumptive workers compensation laws for first responders and "eligible employees" diagnosed with PTSD. This means that first responders, like police, paramedics and firefighters will no longer have to prove their PTSD injury was work-related. Instead, it will be presumed that the nature of their duties was the cause of their injury. As such, a person diagnosed by a Psychiatrist as having PTSD, who was at any time before the diagnosis employed as a first responder or an eligible employee, will now be entitled to immediate support, treatment and compensation under the Act.
A first responder is a person who, as part of their employment, is required to respond to incidents that are life threatening or otherwise traumatic and in which time may be critical to prevent actual or potential death or injury to persons, or to prevent or minimise damage to property or the environment.
A first responder is generally employed in one of the following fields:
An eligible employee is a person who:
Yes, a first responder (or eligible employee) can make an application for compensation without a diagnosis of PTSD. The workers compensation insurer will be required to arrange an examination by a Psychiatrist and pay for any travel costs incurred by the Claimant in attending the appointment.
Yes, the presumption can be rebutted or overturned if it can be proven that the significant contributing factor for the worker's PTSD did not arise out of, or in the course of, the person’s employment as a first responder or an eligible employee.
Yes, the normal process applies to claims for compensation for mental injury which is not diagnosed as PTSD.
This is a significant development in workers compensation law, which also impacts people working in many of the most vital roles in society. It goes without saying that this is a very positive change and we are pleased to see compensation and assistance expedited for these noble individuals. If you would like more information on this topic or to understand whether this applies to your workforce (or yourself or someone you know), please contact Cameron Seymour.
Article written by Cameron Seymour (Partner) and Natalie Carmichael (Associate).
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