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Simplified workers’ compensation for first-responders with PTSD

First responders and eligible employees diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can now access a streamlined pathway to make a workers’ compensation claim.

The new pathway means they will not need to prove their PTSD was caused by work. Due to the nature of the work they do, first responders and eligible employees with diagnosed PTSD will be considered to have a work-related injury unless there is evidence to the contrary.

It will also limit the need to discuss the incident that caused their PTSD or recount past traumatic incidents they have endured throughout their careers.

The new pathway for deciding claims applies to workers and relevant volunteers if they are a first responder or an eligible employee in certain government departments.

First responders respond to life-threatening, or otherwise traumatic incidents, where time may be critical to prevent actual or potential death or injury to people, or to prevent or minimise damage to property or the environment.

First responders can work for state or local government or the private sector and include:

  • police officers and police recruits
  • ambulance officers
  • child safety officers (authorised officers)
  • corrective services officers
  • youth justice staff members
  • firefighters, fire services officers, members of the State Emergency Service and members of the rural fire brigade
  • doctors and nurses working in emergency and trauma care; acute care; critical care; and high-dependency care
  • coal miners and other miners who perform a mines rescue.

Eligible employees working in state government departments will be responsible for policing, ambulance, fire and emergency services, child safety and corrective services. For example, triple 0 operators. They will be in jobs that require them to:

  • experience repeated or extreme exposure to graphic details of traumatic incidents as they attend the scene of traumatic incidents
  • experience the traumatic incident as they happen
  • investigate, review, or assess traumatic incidents that have happened to other people.

You can access the new pathway if you lodge a valid workers’ compensation claim on or after 20 May 2021.

If you are a first responder or eligible employee and you lodged your claim before this date, your claim will be considered under the usual claims pathway.

If you were diagnosed with PTSD before 20 May 2021 but have not yet lodged a claim, you should lodge your claim as soon as possible to determine your entitlement to compensation. This is because under existing laws for all work-related injuries, workers need to lodge a claim within six months of their entitlement to compensation arising i.e. when a worker is certified by a doctor as having a work-related injury.

In addition to being a first responder or eligible employee, you must be diagnosed with PTSD by a psychiatrist.

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD by your GP, you should lodge your claim as soon as possible. Once you have lodged your claim, you are entitled to free early intervention support, like psychological counselling, funded by your insurer until your claim is decided.

Once you have lodged your claim, your insurer will arrange and pay for you to see a psychiatrist to confirm your PTSD diagnosis. Your insurer will also pay any reasonable travel expenses.

You can access the new pathway if you are diagnosed with PTSD unless there is evidence which shows your PTSD is not work-related. For example, medical information from your doctor shows your PTSD was caused by a private car accident or an assault that happened outside of work.

All Queensland workers with a psychological injury, including PTSD, are entitled to workers’ compensation if they have a work-related injury. If you aren’t a first responder or eligible employee, you may still be able to access compensation and rehabilitation support.

It is important you lodge your claim as soon as possible to access early intervention support while your claim is being decided. Early intervention support is available to all workers who have claimed a psychological injury and includes paying for psychological services like:

  • general practitioner appointments
  • counselling or psychology sessions
  • psychiatry appointments
  • psychotropic medication relating to your condition
  • mediation services.

There are no time limits for when you last worked as a first responder for lodging a claim, however, workers must lodge their claim within six months of being assessed by a doctor as having a work-related injury i.e. from the date of diagnosis of PTSD by your doctor or psychiatrist.

Your claim can be considered under the new pathway if you have retired or you are now working in a different job, however, the medical information provided by your psychiatrist needs to support your PTSD was caused by your past work as a first responder.

To be eligible for compensation, your employment must be connected to Queensland. If you’ve previously been a first responder in another state or territory and you are now working in Queensland, you may be eligible for compensation if medical information supports your current injury is connected to your work in Queensland.

After you’ve lodged your claim, your insurer will gather information to decide if your claim will be considered under the new pathway. Your insurer will contact you for details about your work, injury and other information that’s needed to assess your claim. Your insurer may also contact your employer or your doctor to get further information.

Read more about the claims process.

Claims accepted under the new pathway are entitled to access the same entitlements and support as other workers’ compensation claims.

Entitlements include weekly payments for lost wages if you can’t work, as well as covering medical and treatment costs. Other support offered during your claim will include helping you return to work, such as organising suitable duties or vocational rehabilitation.

You may also be entitled to a lump sum payment if you have suffered a permanent impairment due to your injury.

If your application can’t be considered under the new pathway, the insurer must still consider it under the standard claims pathway, and you will need to prove your injury was work-related.

If your insurer determines that your claim is not accepted, they will provide you with a letter explaining the reasons why. If you don’t agree with the insurer’s decision, you have the right to have this decision reviewed by the Workers’ Compensation Regulator.

Further information