We are continuing to service the community during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic . Read more >>
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

* The information provided below is a basic overview of the law concerning psychiatric / psychological injury sustained in the context of work. This area of law is very intricate and complex. The particulars concerning an individual worker’s psychiatric / psychological injury will significantly influence whether an employer and / or a fellow worker can be held legally accountable for the injury. In order to protect your legal rights, we recommend that you contact us to organise a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Accredited Personal Injury Law lawyers to discuss the particulars of your injury.

The law does provide recourse for a worker / employee who has suffered a psychiatric / psychological injury in the context of their work if the circumstances and nature of their injury meet particular criteria.

To determine if an injured worker can make a common law claim (once the statutory phase has ended) against their employer for the worker’s psychiatric / psychological injuries, essentially, the worker needs to establish that their employer was negligent.

Basically, four legal questions are asked in order to determine if an employer was negligent and thus, may be held accountable for an employee’s psychological or psychiatric injuries:

  1. Did the employer have a duty of care?
  2. Did the employer breach their duty of care?
  3. Did the worker suffer a psychological or psychiatric injury arising out of, or in the course of, their employment?
  4. Was the psychological or psychiatric injury caused by the breach of the employer’s duty of care?

Employer’s duty of care

In the context of an employer to employee relationship, duty of care means that an employer has a legal obligation to avoid causing their employee’s harm. Of note, this duty extends only to harm that is reasonably foreseeable.

This duty of care is non-delegable. Put simply, this means that an employer cannot “wash their hands” of their responsibilities by trying to make someone else responsible for the health and safety of their workers.

The case of McLean v Tedman (1984) 155 CLR 306 clarified that an employer has a duty of care to:

  • Provide a safe system of work; and
  • Establish a safe system of work; and
  • Maintain a safe system of work; and
  • Enforce a safe system of work.

 

What happens if another employee caused the injury?

Depending upon the circumstances of the worker’s injury, an employer is vicariously liable for the actions of their employees (including management / executive). Thus, depending upon the circumstances of the injury, an employer can be held legally accountable if one of their workers caused the injury of another worker.

 

How do you determine if the employer breached their duty of care?

In order to determine if an employer breached their duty of care, the following questions have to be addressed:

  • Would a reasonable employer have foreseen a risk of injury to the worker as a result of the employer’s conduct at that point in time?
  • What would a reasonable employer have done in response to the foreseeable risk to the employee at that point in time?

Of note, with respect to determining whether an employer was reasonable or not the Court will take into account a number of factors including how burdensome it would have been for the employer to take precautions.

The employer’s conduct will be evaluated by the Court without the benefit of hindsight. For example, the Court would ask at that point in time when the injury was sustained, was the employer aware, or, should they have been aware of the risk of injury?

In determining if an employer has breached their duty of care i.e. the employer should be held accountable for their employee’s psychiatric / psychological injury, the Court will consider both legislation and case law.

 

How does a Court determine if an employee’s work is the cause of the employee’s psychiatric or psychological injury?

Before evaluating if an employer was responsible for an employee’s psychiatric or psychological injury, it has to be established that the worker actually sustained a psychiatric or psychological injury.

Expert assessment, in the form of a report addressed to the Court, should be sought from a psychiatrist, psychologist, neuropsychologist etc. This report will determine if the worker has a psychiatric / psychological injury resulting from their work.

In addition to the report, the Court will be guided by section 32(1)(b) of the Workers’ Compensation Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) which outlines that a worker is considered to have sustained a compensable injury, if their employment was the major significant contributing factor to their psychiatric / psychological injury.

Furthermore, section 32(3) of the Workers’ Compensation Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) outlines that an injury includes “…an aggravation of a psychiatric or psychological disorder, if the aggravation arises out of, or in the course of, employment and the employment is the major significant contributing factor to the aggravation.” Thus, in the event that a worker already had, for example, Anxiety, before they commenced work for the allegedly negligent employer, the worker can seek compensation if their anxiety was aggravated i.e. made worse because of the negligence of their employer.

 

Can an employer be held legally responsible for the actions or inactions of their management staff?

Just because an individual is employed in the position of management or an executive position, does not necessarily mean that the individual, or for that matter the company, is above the law. An employer can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees.

In determining whether an employer should be held vicariously liable for the behaviour of one of their workers, a number of legal questions have to be met including:

  1. Was the worker, who allegedly caused the injury, working within the scope of their role at the time they allegedly caused the other worker an injury?
  2. Did the worker’s employer know about the worker’s action or inaction (that lead to the psychiatric / psychological injury of the injured worker), or
  3. Should the employer have known of the need to do something about the conduct of the subject worker and they failed to do so?
  4. Did the employer’s action/ inaction lead to the injury of the injured worker?

An example of employer being held vicariously liable for the actions of one of their workers is the case of Robinson v State of Queensland (2017) QSC 165. In this case, the employer, the Queensland Government, was held responsible for the actions of their District Chief Executive Officer for a number of reasons including that the employer knew or, if they had acted reasonably, ought to have known, of the need to conduct a timely and determinative action regarding numerous vexatious and injurious complaints about a worker.

 

When is an employer not responsible for the psychiatric or psychological injury of an employer?

In addition to case law, the Court will also consider section 305B of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) to determine if an employer did not breach their duty of care. The legislation states:

(1) A person does not breach their duty to take precautions against a risk of injury to the worker unless:

  • (a)The risk was foreseeable (that is, it is a risk of which the person knew or ought reasonably to have known); and
  • (b)The risk was not insignificant; and
  • (c)In the circumstances, a reasonable person in the position of the person would have taken the precautions.

 

(2) In deciding whether a reasonable person would have taken precautions against a risk of injury, the court is to consider the following (among other relevant things):

  • (a)The probability that the injury would occur if care were not taken;
  • (b)The likely seriousness of the injury;
  • (c)The burden of taking precautions to avoid the risk of injury.

 

In addition to section 305B of the Workers’ Compensation Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld), section 32(5) prescribes that an employer will not be held accountable with respect to a worker’s psychological or psychiatric state in the following circumstances:

  • Reasonable management action was taken in a reasonable way by the employer in connection to the worker’s employment. For example, an employer may not be held accountable if it was reasonable for the employer to demote, transfer, retrench or dismiss a worker; or
  • The worker’s expectation or perception of what they consider to be reasonable action differs from their employer’s reasonable management action (and, ultimately, what the Court determines to be reasonable); or
  • The action by the Regulator or an insurer, in connection with the worker’s application for compensation. For example, the employer will not be held accountable if WorkCover Queensland decides to cease payments.

 

Causation: Did the employer’s breach cause the worker’s injury?

In order for an injured worker to make a claim for their psychiatric / psychological injury, they have to prove that their employer breached their duty of care and this breach of their duty of care caused, contributed towards or aggravated the worker’s psychiatric / psychological injury.

Although there are other tests that help guide the Court with respect to determining whether the employer’s breach caused the worker an injury, section 305D of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) outlines the legal test for the causation.

This test is colloquially referred to as the “but for” test. “But for” the employer’s breach of their duty of care, would the worker have sustained an injury or, had an existing injury aggravated?

In order to protect your legal rights, we suggest that you contact one of our Accredited Personal Injury Law specialists for a free, non-obligation consultation to discuss the particulars of your circumstances.

Free Instant Case Review

    • No Win, No Fee
    • No upfront payments
    • Free initial consultation
    • Home visits
    • Hospital visits
    • Videoconference meetings (via Zoom or Microsoft Teams) where preferred
    • After hours visits
    • 30% cap on legal fees
    • No uplift fees charged
    • No litigation lenders or interest charges on outlays / disbursements
    • Complete confidentiality
    • Immediate assessment of your claim

    *Strict time limits apply when making a claim. Do not delay.

    Managing Director

    Sean Delpopolo

    Sean Delpopolo

    Sean is a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law.*

    Sean specialises in work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, brain and head injury claims, spinal injury claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    He has been running personal injury claims in Queensland for over 25 years. Sean founded our firm in 2004 and the firm has grown and gone from strength to strength on the background of outstanding service, incredible results and charging really fair fees.

    With an innate sense of fairness and justice, this motivates Sean and his team to do everything they can to ensure that the results they achieve for their clients are something that they can all be proud of. In Sean’s mind, the interests of the firm’s clients come first, before anything else, and this value has flowed on through to the entire team.

    As a father of two daughters, Sean understands that his clients’ personal injury claims can make a huge difference to their lives and the lives of those around them. This is why he has made it his life’s work to fight for the “little guy” to obtain the compensation they deserve.

    * To find out more about what it takes to become an Accredited Specialist click here.

    Director

    Helen Ashton

    Helen Ashton

    Helen is a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law.*

    As an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, having been awarded the highest achiever award for the course in 2015, Helen has a high level of knowledge and technical expertise. Admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2001, she also has extensive experience in running all types of personal injury claims.

    Helen specialises in work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, medical negligence claims, construction accident claims, mining accident claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Helen has a friendly and approachable personality and strives to ensure that her clients are kept well informed and are provided with quality and practical legal advice.

    As a mother of three young children, Helen understands the impact events can have on a family unit and works proactively to achieve the right result for her clients in the shortest possible timeframe. Helen has the ability and the experience to assist clients with a wide variety of claims, including any personal injury claims with a high level of complexity and those that have had catastrophic consequences.

    * To find out more about what it takes to become an Accredited Specialist click here.

    Special Counsel

    Nickelle Morris

    Nickelle Morris

    Nickelle is an expert in personal injury claims and has been recognised by the Queensland Law Society as an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law.* She was awarded the highest achiever award for the accreditation course which she completed in 2022. Nickelle was also a finalist in the Special Counsel of the Year category in the Australian Law Awards in 2019.

    Nickelle has been practising exclusively in personal injury litigation for over 20 years. She has extensive experience in catastrophic claims and fatality claims across all practice areas.

    Nickelle specialises in catastrophic injury claims (including traumatic brain injuries, acquired brain injuries and other head injuries, amputations, severe burns and spinal cord injuries resulting in tetraplegia, paraplegia and the like), National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIISQ) claims, work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, public liability injury claims, medical negligence claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Nickelle prides herself on being a technical, yet practical and compassionate lawyer. She takes her time to understand her client’s situation and to ensure that they have an understanding of their rights and entitlements. Nickelle is a tenacious and passionate advocate for her clients and is dedicated to being proactive in ensuring her client’s needs are met and achieving the best outcome for her clients.

    Outside of work, Nickelle is a mother of two children and is a member of a number of committees both within the legal industry and community.

    * To find out more about what it takes to become an Accredited Specialist click here.

    Special Counsel

    Barry Mcgee

    Barry has always loved a spirited debate, and, with over 20 years specialising exclusively in personal injury litigation, his passion, skill and ability to assist his clients is well known throughout the Queensland profession.

    Barry specialises in work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, construction accident claims, mining accident claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Barry’s legal career began in his native Scotland, where he qualified as a Solicitor in 1998. Upon qualifying, he worked for a boutique practice, and then a top-tier national firm, representing a number of different insurers across a variety of industries. With years of working for insurers under his belt, Barry is able to see matters through the eyes of his legal opponents. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say!

    He was admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2007. In Australia, he commenced working for a large national firm, where he spent 15 years practicing in personal injury litigation. He was made a Partner of the firm in 2011 and spent 11 years as the firm’s dedicated in-house Special Counsel. As Special Counsel, Barry provided expert advocacy and strategical advice and assistance to the firm’s personal injury lawyers and clients of the firm alike.

    Barry has significant and extensive experience across a wide variety of personal injury claims. He is compassionate, personable and straightforward, with a keen sense of what is fair and just and a reputation for not settling for anything less than his client deserves.

    Outside of work he enjoys surfing, the outdoors, music and spending time with his wife and 3 young children.

    Special Counsel

    Charlotte Evans

    Charlotte has practised exclusively in personal injury compensation litigation for over 20 years.

    Charlotte specialises in sexual abuse claims, work injury claims, workplace injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, motorcycle accident injury claims, other road accident injury claims, construction accident claims, mining accident claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatal injury claims, psychiatric and psychological injury claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    She is committed to fighting for the rights of plaintiffs and helping her clients through the legal maze, to achieve outcomes that put people back in control of their lives. She has had experience in taking a number of personal injury cases to Trial and winning hard fought cases for her clients and she does not shy away from a challenge.

    Charlotte has a friendly and approachable personality and strives to cut through the legal jargon to make the personal injury claim process understandable for her clients whilst ensuring that her clients are also kept well informed throughout their claim.

    Out of the office Charlotte is a busy Mum, who now enjoys the privileges of living in beautiful Queensland and making the most of all it has to offer.

    Special Counsel

    Prue Prescott

    Prue has been running personal injury claims for nearly 20 years. This has involved acting for injured claimants in most areas of personal injury law including workers’ compensation injury claims, motor vehicle accident injury claims, public liability injury claims, death and fatality claims, psychiatric injury claims, National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIISQ) claims and total and permanent disability claims.

    Prue enjoys handling the more complex claims, such as traumatic brain injury, fatal injury and nervous shock claims, as well as claims involving complex legal principles. Prue seeks to use her Masters qualification in writing and literature to tell each and every client’s individual story, ensuring they are treated fairly by insurers and that they obtain the compensation they deserve.

    In 2019, Prue was nominated by the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland Inc as an Inspirational Lawyer.

    Outside of work, Prue is a busy mum of boys but also tries to find the time to read, write and explore nature.

    Office Manager

    Julie Hollonds

    Julie is a highly dedicated and experienced office manager who has been an integral part of our team for the past 14 years. Bringing a wealth of knowledge with over 35 years of experience in administration, Julie keeps our office running smoothly and efficiently.

    Outside of work, Julie loves to walk, snorkel, spend time with friends and explore the beautiful Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

    Legal Assistant

    Aleisha Harrigan

    Having worked as a legal assistant for over five years, Aleisha has a wealth of experience in the field of personal injury. Since joining East Coast Lawyers, she has been an essential part of providing invaluable support to solicitors and our clients. Her abilities extend beyond legal matters with Aleisha providing training to our assistants and administrative team, and streamlining processes and procedures, ensuring that the workflows operate smoothly and effectively.

    Outside of work, Aleisha has a passion for reading and music. She can often be found immersed in a good book or a live concert. She values spending quality time with her family, friends and her beloved dog, Kevin.

    Legal Assistant

    Kym Arrowsmith

    Kym is a knowledgeable legal assistant with fifteen years of expertise in the field of personal injury law. She is passionate about supporting clients through the process and obtaining the best possible outcome for them. As a valued member of our team, Kym takes pride in her work and is committed to sharing her extensive experience and knowledge with our other team members.

    When Kym is not busy with work, she loves spending time with her family and friends, and enjoys discovering new places, whether it be through the pages of a biography or on her push bike.

    Legal Assistant

    Alece Turner

    Alece is a law student who is extremely motivated and passionate about personal injury law. She is hardworking, and always strives to produce the best possible results for our clients.

    Her dedication and eagerness to learn more about the law makes Alece a great addition to our team.

    When not working or studying, she loves spending time with her son at the beach or at one of our amazing theme parks.

    Legal Assistant

    Georgia Ryan

    Georgia recently joined the team in February 2023 and has been working within the industry for the last three years. She is enthusiastic about helping new and existing clients, and with her bubbly personality and can-do approach makes her an excellent addition to our team.

    Raised in Tasmania, Georgia moved to Queensland in early 2017 and hasn’t regretted it since. She loves the warm weather and lifestyle. Outside of work, Georgia loves travelling, dining out and spending time with family and friends.

    Legal Assistant

    Claire Rezny

    Claire is one of our hard working and devoted Legal Assistants. With over 25 years’ administrative experience, her attention to detail, willingness to help others, and calm demeanour makes her a real asset to our team.

    Claire is well travelled and, during her time in the USA, Claire discovered a newfound love for reading, which led her to become a proofreader for several published novels. Claire also enjoys landscape and wildlife photography and spending time with her family and puppy.

    RECEPTIONIST AND ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

    Shayla Riley

    Shayla joined our team in September 2023, coming from an extensive background in customer service.

    Shayla is a law student who is very passionate about personal injury law. With her bubbly personality and can-do attitude this makes her the perfect person for her administration support role.

    When Shayla is not in the office you can find her enjoying all things outdoors, getting lost in a good book or spending time with her two rescue dogs Bear and Ella. 

    RECEPTIONIST AND ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

    Brooke Gribble

    Meet Brooke, our receptionist and administration assistant. Brooke has over 3 years’ administration experience in personal injury law and is eager to provide high quality customer service to our clients.

    Brooke finds joy in helping others and is extremely hard working making her a real asset to our team.

    Out of the office you may find Brooke at a racetrack as she has a passion for fast cars. Brooke also likes spending her time enjoying outdoor activities such as swimming and hiking but will never pass up the opportunity to indulge in some retail therapy.