Workers’ compensation claims are available for many physical injuries that an employee may sustain on the job, but claims can also be made for mental health issues as well. As with physical injuries, not all mental health problems that a worker develops over the course of their employment will be covered, but in many cases a workers’ compensation claim can be an avenue for recovery.
A General Overview
In principle mental health issues that occur as a direct result of an employee’s job can be covered through an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. As an example, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disability that is currently considered by the psychiatric community to be largely incurable though manageable with proper treatment, and that can potentially remain with a patient for their entire remaining life. PTSD is often caused by a single precipitating event or exposure to hostile and physically dangerous environments for an extended period of time. Workplace causes deemed to be compensable injuries by workers’ compensation review boards often involve industrial accidents or incidents of workplace violence.
In McIntosh v. CVS Pharmacy, 1D13-2397 (04/22/2014), a recent appellate court ruling from the Florida First District Court of Appeal, the court held in favor of an employee’s post-traumatic stress disorder being an injury compensable under the workers’ compensation system. In McIntosh, the plaintiff was an employee who was working the night shift at a pharmacy when the business was robbed. The plaintiff was diagnosed with suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the events. In its holding, the court points out that:
“For example, if an employee, in the course and scope of employment, is sexually assaulted at the workplace and suffers a physical injury that requires medical treatment, the physical injury is certainly compensable. See § 440.09, Fla. Stat. (2007). If the employee also suffers a mental or nervous injury separate and apart from the physical injury, the mental or nervous injury would be compensable because it would meet the section 440.09 requirements and also comply with section 440.093(1). In this hypothetical situation, the employee would have simultaneously suffered two compensable workplace injuries: one physical and one mental.” (Citing McKenzie v. Mental Health Care, Inc., 43 So. 3d 767 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010).)
Similar cases in other jurisdictions have held that a number of other psychiatric conditions that were directly caused by work events or conditions, such as depression, were also compensable from an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Because the condition has to be shown to be directly caused by the employment, some conditions can be much more difficult than others to prove a causal link for, however, if a link can be established then they will be covered.
Stress And Stress-Related Illnesses
In some circumstances stress related illnesses, and even stress itself, can be covered by workers’ compensation programs. Heart attacks, as an example, which were precipitated by work related stress have been found to be a valid basis for workers’ compensation claims in a number of jurisdictions across the country. In cases of stress related illness that are not chronic conditions, however, employees have generally been expected to seek out different work situations in order to remove themselves from the health risk. In these cases the employee will usually receive benefits for a period of time to facilitate these changes.
Discuss Your Situation With A Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation claims involving mental health issues are some of the most complex claims to successfully pursue. But with the assistance of an experienced attorney these kinds of claims can be successful. If you feel that you have developed a mental health condition as a result of work-related matters, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in your area to discuss your potential claim and how best to get back on the road to recovery.