Police PTSD claims show insurers cannot be trusted - lawyers

2nd Aug 2016

The experience of police officers claiming compensation for PTSD shows insurance companies need to be held to account, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

ABC’s Four Corners is the latest expose of the deeply flawed claims assessment culture within insurance companies, and follows on from the Four Corners episode on 8 March, ‘Money For Nothing’.

“Last night we saw the shocking treatment of our police who put their lives at risk to protect our communities, by the insurance companies who have taken premiums with a promise to pay for a dignified medical retirement”, said Josh Mennen, ALA’s spokesperson on insurance and superannuation.

“Police face harrowing situations on a daily basis. The kinds of scenes that most of us would run from, of extreme acts of violence, abuse and murder, police walk straight into and do their best to resolve. It is incumbent on their employers to ensure that they are safe, both physically and mentally, as they do this essential work.

“Despite the public outrage over insurance companies ‘delay or decline’ tactics which have bolstered calls for a Royal Commission, last night’s stories expose insurance companies continuing to systematically employ intimidating tactics to justify denying legitimate claims by police who have suffered injury in the line of duty”.

“It’s time insurance companies honoured their policies and put people before profits”, said Mr Mennen.

The ALA has long been advocating for a Code of Practice to be implemented to regulate the insurance industry. Surveillance practices in particular are in need of regulation, as they are currently being employed in dubious ways.

“Insurers have been known to use surveillance as a bullying tactic to encourage claimants to drop their claims. We saw last night how damaging this can be. The fact that apparently valid claims are being withdrawn as a result of these tactics is particularly concerning.

“That’s why we advocate for a Code of Practice which stipulates that the insurance industry will not conduct surveillance on claimants that could reasonably be deemed invasive, excessive or unnecessary.

“Courts have accepted that with psychological illnesses such as PTSD and major depressive disorder, surveillance is of minimal use in assessing the severity of the illness. It is therefore all the more concerning that this tactic is used, when it is known that the impacts of being subjected to surveillance has on claimants.

“Ex-police officers who have been previously stalked and subjected to death threats in their jobs have been followed by surveillance operatives, exacerbating their illness and even leading to attempted suicide.  That has been done at the bidding of insurers who must be aware of the risks of aggravating the claimant’s illness. What possible motivation could there be for insurance companies to undertake surveillance that makes claimants’ conditions worse and the courts have said is not reliable evidence, if not to get them to drop their claims? Insurance is supposed to help treat these conditions, not make them worse” said Mr Mennen.

“Again we have seen that insurance companies cannot be trusted to regulate their own activities. The ALA today reiterates its calls for a Code of Practice to bring these companies into line, and for a Royal Commission to hear from the victims and hold the industry accountable” said Mr Mennen.

Tags: Compensation Workers compensation Health, medicine and law