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WorkCover: First Responders

On 20 May 2021, the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 received passed through Parliament and will bring about a suite of changes to Queensland workers’ rights. The changes are targeted at first responders, being those persons who’s employment requires a response to incidents that are life-threatening or traumatic, and where time is critical to prevent actual or potential death or injury to a person, or damage to property or the environment. The legislation even goes as far as including traumatic incidents of sexual violence.

The changes are obviously targeted at the Police, Paramedics, and Firefighters, however, the changes also extend to those who volunteer, such as the State Emergency Service (SES) and those who work in emergency call centers.

To be eligible to claim, a first responder must have suffered a diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where the employment (volunteered or otherwise) required the first responder to experience:-

a.    repeated or extreme exposure to graphic traumatic incidents (such as recovering human remains); or

b.    traumatic incidences as they happen to other persons (such as a communications officer to respond to calls of emergency situations); or

c.    investigating, reviewing, or assessing traumatic incidents (such as an investigator of child sexual abuse).

Unfortunately, the legislation falls short on covering all psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or hypervigilance. The injury must be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist. However, to first lodge the claim an opinion from a General Practitioner (GP) will suffice.

A new Schedule included in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014 lists out the occupations that the changes will target:-

·       Paramedics;

·       Child Protection Officers;

·       Corrective Services Officers;

·       Fire Service Officers;

·       State Emergency Service Members;

·       Rural Fire Brigade Members;

·       Volunteer Firefighters;

·       Police Officers, including Police Recruits;

·       Youth Justice Staff Members;

·       Doctors or Nurses working in emergency or trauma care, acute care, critical care or high-dependency care; and

·       Mine and Quarry Workers who perform rescue functions; or

·       Any occupation working within the legislation governing the above, including in the private sector.

If you are a first responder who has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is important to lodge an application early. An application for compensation is valid and enforceable only if the application is lodged by you within 6 months after the entitlement to compensation arises unless special circumstances arose to the satisfaction of WorkCover (or the self-insurer) that prevented you from making the application within 6 months.

You can also make an application for workers’ compensation if you have suffered PTSD but are not a first responder. The application is simply processed as a usual claim, rather than pursuant to WorkCover’s new streamlined process for first responders.

If an application is lodged more than 20 business days after the entitlement to compensation arises, the extent of the liability to pay compensation is limited to a period starting no earlier than 20 business days before the day on which the valid application is lodged.

If you have the right to make a common law claim for damages, in Queensland, you have three (3) years from the date of injury or accident to file court documents or serve a compliant Notice of Claim for Damages or you will forever lose your right to make a claim.

If any of these time limits are approaching you should urgently seek legal advice.

For more information about WorkCover claims read our other articles available on our website https://www.mcna.com.au/compensation-law/work-related-injuries/ or call one of our injury lawyers on 13 58 28.

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