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May 13, 2021

New changes to PTSD claims for Qld first responders

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For first responders and other workers/volunteers exposed to traumatic events through their employment, it is not uncommon for them to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), almost always with debilitating effects.

In the past, these first responders, and other workers/volunteers who have been injured through no fault of their own have been forced to jump through the procedural hoops of the Queensland workers’ compensation scheme to prove that their PTSD has been caused by their employment.

At last, in some very good news for first responders and other eligible employees/volunteers, the Queensland Government (with support of the opposition) yesterday passed the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 (Qld).

The effect of this new presumptive and beneficial legislation (which will commence upon assent) is as follows:

  1. It provides a streamlined pathway for Queensland first responders and other eligible employees/volunteers who have been exposed to a traumatic incident and have been diagnosed with PTSD or are suffering from as-yet undiagnosed PTSD to make a workers’ compensation claim;
  2. If the first responder or eligible employee/volunteer has a PTSD diagnosis from a psychiatrist, their workers’ compensation claim will be accepted without them being the subject of further investigation or having to retell their stories (which itself can cause further trauma), unless there is evidence to the contrary;
  3. For those first responders and eligible employees/volunteers who do not yet have a PTSD diagnosis, they can lodge their workers’ compensation claim, receive free early intervention treatment (i.e. counselling etc) and support and the workers’ compensation insurer will then arrange and fund for a specialist diagnosis to be obtained;
  4. Even if the PTSD arises from reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way by the employer (previously a ground to reject the claim), the workers’ compensation claim will be accepted as the factors causing PTSD do not arise from reasonable management action.

The bill outlines a wide range of workers likely to benefit from these new provisions including:

  • Ambulance officers, volunteer ambulance officers and associated employees/volunteers;
  • Child protection officers and associated employees;
  • Corrective services officers and associated employees
  • Firefighters and other emergency services staff;
  • Police officers, police recruits and associated employees/volunteers;
  • Youth Justice staff members;
  • Doctors and nurses employed in emergency and trauma care, acute care, critical care and high-dependency care; and
  • Other employees/volunteers in similar occupations or professions to those outlined above.

These new provisions are an important milestone for first responders and other eligible employees/volunteers in Queensland and will enable them to rightfully obtain workers’ compensation benefits in circumstances where in the past those claims may have been rejected by the workers’ compensation insurer and/or the worker may have suffered further unnecessary trauma by what was an unduly difficult process to have their claim accepted.

Trent Johnson

Trent Johnson

Trent is passionate about helping people and has been an accredited specialist in personal injury law in Queensland continuously since 2011. He has particular expertise in motor vehicle, workers’ compensation, public liability, abuse and dust-related illness compensation claims.

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