A police officer who was exposed to multiple traumatic events during the course of her career has pursued a $1.47 million work injury damages claim against the State of New South Wales.
Work injury damages claims are a form of workers compensation whereby the employer's negligence directly causes an employee to become hurt or ill. In this case, the plaintiff sought compensation for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression and anxiety.
As negligence must be proven, she had to show the NSW Police Force owed her a duty of care and that the organisation breached this obligation by failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent her from coming to harm.
How did the police officer's psychological injuries occur?
Determining liability in a negligence claim is often complex, which is why plaintiffs should enlist the services of expert personal injury lawyers to fight on their side.
The police officer in this case had witnessed numerous traumatic experiences on the job, including suicides, motor vehicle crashes and accidental deaths. She began suffering nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety attacks and other symptoms of serious mental health problems.
Her condition continued to worsen over a period of nine years until she was medically discharged in 2013. A medical practitioner diagnosed the plaintiff as totally and permanently disabled, which means she would be unable ever to return to work.
Did NSW Police breach its duty of care?
The woman claimed her employer was negligent by failing to heed the advice of a police medical officer and psychologist who said the plaintiff should undergo a counselling course and monitoring for signs of distress. She also argued the police force failed to appropriately follow up on her mental health in 2009 after she had been identified as an at-risk officer.
However, District Court Judge Phillip Mahony ruled the organisation had not breached its duty of care because it had made reasonable efforts to ensure the plaintiff received appropriate mental health support.
Evidence showed the woman had often under-represented her symptoms due to a perceived stigma surrounding psychological problems within the police. In 2009, she responded to an email asking whether she needed help and support by stating that she was receiving counselling outside of work, although this was untrue.
Have you been injured at work?
Unfortunately for the plaintiff, Judge Mahony ruled in favour of the defendant, as the plaintiff was unable to establish that the police force had breached its duty of care.
But this should not discourage people who have experienced physical or psychological injuries in the workplace from seeking legal advice on their options. A successful claim can provide essential financial support to injured workers who may never be able to work again, and no-win, no-fee legal services will ensure plaintiffs only pay charges if they receive a settlement.
Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to find out whether you may be entitled to work injury damages.