When it comes to Workers' Compensation, you need to be strategic.
Decide whether you want to return to work or not, and then stay in the driver's seat.
There's plenty of time to bring a worker's compensation claim at the end, when you've successfully got yourself back to work on your own terms.
Think about what happens when you make a motor vehicle accident claim.
Once you make the claim, you've legally given your insurer the right to decide what's to be done - even to the point of being able to sell your car back to you if you don't want it written off.
Worker's compensation insurance is no different.
Once you make your claim, your employer is legally entitled to involve itself in your affairs and to dictate how, when, what and why.
Your employer gets to be in the driver's seat and is largely in tandem with their agent, the insurer.
It's an all too familiar story -
Your own doctor's views are no longer seen to be important.
You have to see their psychiatrist, not yours.
Their psychiatrist invariably operates on your employer's version of your history, not yours.
Some awful things happen.
A person once told me how, as he said goodbye, the psychiatrist grasped his hand, saying to him sympathetically, "I bet you feel like killing the bastards sometimes".
The whistleblower grimaced, barely raising a smile.
You guessed it - the psychiatrist's report came back with something like, "He shook his fist at me, shouting he'd kill the bastards".
People do bad things for very little reason sometimes, and money makes it all too easy.
But if you use your own leave entitlements, then you, with your doctor, stay in the driver's seat.
Your employer generally can't direct you to see anyone without your agreement and has to take notice of your doctor's instructions.
You would need to make sure your doctor is kept fully informed on a regular basis.
All your medical cetificates should provide details of your symptoms and sheet home the blame to your employer.
If you don't have a doctor, get one.
Get a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Your doctors should keep a detailed record of what's going on.
Then, after you get back to work or decide to leave, you can put in what is known as a "closed period" worker's compensation claim.
This should ensure that you'll have the only record and the best record.
It's known as a "closed period claim" because it is for a set period and it is being made after the fact.
You would be claiming all of the usual things : monetary reimbursement for the leave entitlements you've used, all related expenses and compensation if applicable.
So, stay in the driver's seat!
You can do the same if you opt for medical retirement, but use your leave entitlements upfront and then claim them back at the point you leave work, because that way you stay in control of your own affairs for as long as you can.
Cynthia Kardell is National President of Whistleblowers Australia.
This article is adapted from Cynthia's article on page 13 of the April 2010 issue of The Whistle.