In what may prove to be a landmark settlement, a volunteer firefighter has just received significant compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he reports was primarily caused by his time working in the Rural Fire Service, beginning in 2002. Following negotiations at the Supreme Court, the man reached a settlement with the NSW government.
Background of the case
According to an earlier report from Yahoo News, the claimant, a former race-car mechanic and delivery driver, found that he was no longer able to work after developing chronic PTSD, as well as other issues including substance abuse problems, following his time in the fire service (where he served between 1997 and 2014).
The claimant explains that his PTSD was caused and exacerbated by the events he witnessed in the line of duty, including fatal accidents and an attempted suicide. He also notes, in a point central to his accident compensation claim, that the fire service only offered ineffectual medical treatment of his condition. For instance, despite his attendance at the aforementioned incidents, he was never screened or assessed for PTSD.
As a result of his condition, the former firefighter notes that he has suffered a loss of earnings, as well as his ability to earn an income from another job. Presumably, these points were also key to the eventual settlement.
“Once you get into these organisations, unlike the military, you don’t have to have a physical and psychological assessment regularly,” noted Alexander McFarlane, an expert on PTSD who spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald about the case. He explained that the limited counselling and debriefing that is available to volunteers is not sufficient, and needs to be expanded for the sake of volunteers, as reflected by the result of this particular case.
“We depend on volunteers to these organisations and you want a volunteer organisation that you know is going to look after you.”
What precedent might it set?
The case indicates that workplace compensation claims are not limited to physical injuries. Anyone suffering from chronic PTSD who feels that the disorder was unequivocally caused by their disorder will certainly want to investigate the possibility of whether they can make a claim like the one above.