Alcoholism Caused by Managing Workers’ Comp Claims

12 September 2017

A former general manager has recently been awarded compensation for brain damage and other workplace injuries, after he self-medicated with alcohol in order to deal with the stress of employees taking advantage of the workers’ compensation system.

The general manager was diagnosed with major depression, stress-related illness and an irritable bowel condition in 2002 after rehabilitation and return to work failed for an employee diagnosed with repetitive strain injury, despite thorough and costly efforts made.

The general manager submitted that after the failure, his mental condition was pushed to the edge, as he was sick of witnessing employees “rorting” the compensation system. He told the South Australian Employment Tribunal Deputy President Stephen Dolphin that with each new claim he would get increasingly more frustrated and distressed, and drunk excessive amounts of alcohol to cope.

The general manager’s original claim was accepted by the old Workers Compensation Tribunal in 2002, but his representative failed to inform him of the successful outcome. Hence, this most recent decision comes 15 years later, after his brother made some enquiries.

In the current proceedings, the general manager claimed compensation for his alcohol dependency syndrome, alcohol induced brain damage, irritable bowel injuries and psychological disorders.

He told Deputy President Dolphin that by 2004 he was drinking half a bottle of whisky every day and in 2006, an MRI scan found he was suffering cerebellar atrophy due to alcohol abuse.

Rehabilitation was sought in 2012, but by then he couldn’t drive or walk properly and suffered cognitive impairments.

Deputy President Dolphin identified a causal chain between the general manager’s alcohol induced brain damage and his earlier injuries, and accepted the argument that he self-medicated to cope with workplace stresses. It was therefore held that his “profound incapacity” arose out of his work as an employee, and compensation was awarded.