Slater and Gordon senior police compensation lawyer John Cox reacts to Global insurer MetLife's pledge to finalise the permanent disability compensation claims of around 200 waiting police officers by July.
It is pleasing to see MetLife hear our calls for urgent action to be taken on all outstanding claims, but I welcome the development with caution given the significant delays to date.
It is incumbent upon MetLife that it sticks to this commitment and assesses every single outstanding claim before 1 July, 2015 – anything less than this is unacceptable and will cause immense further distress to those claimants involved.
There are approximately 268 outstanding TPD claims, known as the ‘Forgotten 300’, and there is evidence that the delays have led to the suicide of former police officers waiting for their claims to be assessed.
I have seen my clients wait years for their TPD claims to be determined, and in my opinion, MetLife has not properly or adequately addressed this issue which has continued to cause extreme distress to my clients, aggravated their symptoms and delayed their recovery.
My concern, as I have been expressing publicly since last year’s Parliamentary Forum on this issue, is that we simply cannot let the death of another police officer occur in these circumstances – something concrete and immediate needs to be done.
While MetLife has rejected our call for the establishment of an independent panel to resolve all outstanding claims, we do acknowledge and welcome the commitment it has given to finalise these claims within the first half of this year, if not before.
I am reassured that MetLife will meet its commitment by the fact that it is a global insurance company which has been active in Australia since 2005 and asserts that it prides itself on fulfilling its promises and always puts the customer first.
Following MetLife’s announcement, I will continue to call for further reform to ensure no more families were devastated by suicide.
It is obvious that the ongoing welfare of former police officers medically discharged hurt on duty needs to be a priority and programs must be put in place for them and their families’ ongoing care.
I believe that this reform is important to safeguard from the circumstances that have arisen over the last few years. The distress, deaths and agony to claimants and their families cannot happen again.
Recommendations for future police TPD compensation claims:
* The establishment of clear guidelines and a timeframe for the processing and determination of claims including specific time limits and deeming provisions relating to the acceptance of claims if they are not determined within 12 months;
* A review regarding the manner that TPD claims are assessed, including the routine use of surveillance, to ensure this does not occur with the new TPD insurer, TAL; and
* A commitment by the NSW Government and the NSW Police Force in respect of cultural reform through education to de-stigmatise mental illness within the Force to make it easier for police officers to identify symptoms, seek immediate treatment and to do so without fear of recrimination.