If you are a NSW Police Officer and have suffered a psychiatric and/or psychological injury in the course of carrying out your duties, you may be entitled to recover damages in a claim in negligence against the State of New South Wales (as being vicariously liable for the NSW Police Force).

To be successful in a claim in negligence you must show:

  1. That the NSW Police owed you a duty of care.
  2. That the NSW Police breached that duty of care.
  3. That you suffered damage from that breach.
  4. That the damage was reasonably foreseeable by the NSW Police from the breach of their duty of care to you.

In the case of Koehler v Cerebos (Australia) Ltd, the High Court established that unless there exists “evident signs warning of the possibility of psychiatric injury” to a specific employee, an employer is entitled to assume that the employee considers themselves able to carry out the job that they were hired to do. A duty of care on the part of the employer is therefore only triggered if they are put on notice through “evident signs” of the employee’s risk of developing a psychiatric injury.

This would produce significant issues for police officers seeking to sue their employer, as the principle does not recognise the innate risk of psychiatric injury underlying the duties of a serving police officer.

The High Court’s decision in Kozarov v State of Victoria in 2022 illustrated a step forward for injured employees, as it recognised that the plaintiff’s work was “inherently and obviously dangerous to the psychiatric health” with respect to all employees such that a duty of care existed to take measures to reduce the plaintiff’s risk of psychiatric injury. Ms Kozarov was prosecutor working in the Specialist Sexual Offences Unit of the Office of Public Prosecutions.

Aside from the inherent risks associated with the job, the Court also recognised that Ms Kozarov’s conduct on certain occasions served to put her employer on notice of the possibility that she would suffer a psychiatric injury. This included her signing a staff memorandum outlining complaints of health impacts as a result of the SSOU’s work, a habit of working late and on weekends and public holidays, her resistance to taking on the “Lim matter, a particularly traumatic matter”, her taking sick leave for two weeks after an episode of dizziness during the Lim trial, and the observation of her supervisor and other workers that the plaintiff was not coping with the work.

The law is coming to recognise that it cannot always be expected that employees will make official, written complaints of injury to their supervisors. For NSW police officers, this is often a completed P902 Incident Notification Form.

Turner Freeman understands that workplace culture within the NSW Police Force has been historically complex and has not always facilitated discussion of work stress and mental health. We are committed to achieving the best outcomes for our clients suffering psychological injuries where the employer has fallen short of the standard of care that is rightfully expected of them.

Get in touch with us

If you are a current or former serving NSW police officer and wish to discuss your entitlements, please contact us on 02 8833 2500.
At Turner Freeman, we have a specialist police compensation team who will assess your case and provide personalised advice. Our police compensation lawyers are based in our Parramatta office.