Former police officer’s PTSD case commences despite time lapse

Date: Jun 29, 2015

A man who allegedly developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his experiences as a police officer will be allowed to make a claim for work injury damages, the New South Wales District Court has ruled.

PTSD is among the psychological disorders that can be considered total and permanent disabilities, enabling claimants to receive a lump sum payment if they are able to show their inability to return to employment.

The former police officer suffered a number of distressing situations while on the job, with a death on the Pacific Highway thought to be a major trigger in the decline of his mental health. A car also struck the man while he was performing random breath tests in 2006.

This latter incident led to the plaintiff seeing a psychologist the same year and receiving shoulder surgery in 2006 and 2007. He subsequently ceased working for the New South Wales Police force in May 2007, before being diagnosed with PTSD in August that year.

People who want to make a compensation claim for psychological injury must apply within three years from the cause of action. However, the man didn’t proceed with his case until 2014, over 7 years from when he stopped working.

Application to extend deadline

The courts can decide to allow applications made to proceed after a deadline has passed if there is a satisfactory explanation for the delay. In this case, there were a number of factors the plaintiff asked the judge to consider.

Firstly, his PTSD didn’t stabilise until 2010, which was a requirement for the illness to be deemed a whole person impairment. More importantly, the man’s solicitor failed to adequately inform him of the three-year deadline.

The solicitor had, wrongly, been waiting for the man to be assessed as having a 15 per cent whole person impairment before launching proceedings. This meant the plaintiff was not aware of his requirements to make a claim within the required timeframe.

“At no relevant time was the plaintiff advised or made aware of either the three-year limitation period or the need for him to comply with the machinery provisions of WIM (Workplace Injury Management) Act,” District Court Judge Mahony explained.

“He was not personally liable for the delay. I am therefore satisfied that there has been a satisfactory explanation for the delay.”

The former police officer is now free to pursue a compensation claim against the State of New South Wales for his psychological injury.

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