Case Study – Secondary Psychiatric Injuries Following a Workplace Injury

 

Harris v State of Queensland [2014] QDC 35

Dealing with pain is difficult.  Coping with an injury can lead to the development of psychiatric conditions such as stress and depression.

This matter is an example of a case study on secondary psychiatric injuries following a physical injury caused by the negligence of an employer.

Background

The plaintiff worked in an administrative position at a Sunshine Coast Correctional Centre.  In October 2009 she was struck from behind by a trolley that was being pushed by another employee.  The plaintiff suffered ruptured ligaments in her left ankle.

The plaintiff underwent surgery for her ankle injury in April 2010.

As a consequence of her ongoing disabilities, the plaintiff developed a depressive illness as a secondary psychiatric condition to the physical injury that occurred in the course of her employment.

Liability

The defendant admitted liability for the incident and the physical injury caused to the plaintiff.  Causation for her psychiatric injury however was disputed.  The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s psychiatric condition stemmed from factors other than the workplace injury.

Judgement

The plaintiff’s lawyers successfully argued that the plaintiff’s psychological injury was caused by the workplace injury and she was entitled to compensation for the effects of both the physical and psychological injuries.

The court determined that the plaintiff would be able to return to work after appropriate treatment, although not as a prison officer.

The court awarded the plaintiff more than $300,000 in compensation.

Conclusion

Coping with the effects of a physical injury can be difficult.  Secondary psychological injuries are common.  In a legal context, it may difficult to prove that the secondary psychiatric injury was caused (or materially contributed to) by the workplace accident and the employer’s negligence.

If you have suffered an injury at work you should seek advice from a specialist in Queensland personal injury claims to ensure that you are informed of your legal rights.

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