Is Mental Stress Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?
Physical injuries at work are common and occur in just about every industry for a variety of reasons. But not all injuries or illnesses are visibly obvious, such as emotional distress, which can result in stress, anxiety, depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Certain professions can be more emotionally distressing or stressful due to the nature of the work, such as law enforcement, health care, and firefighting, where workers experience heightened emotional and dangerous situations regularly. Traumatic events, such as a robbery or workplace shooting, can have a profound effect on an individual’s mental health.
Work-related mental health conditions are harder to specify and prove. Oftentimes, those suffering this type of injury or illness do not immediately recognize their symptoms as psychological until they become severe. Some suffer in silence, either denying what they are experiencing or not wanting others to know.
Any type of work-related injury or illness is covered under the Workers’ Compensation system, which provides medical benefits and wage compensation on a temporary basis during recovery or permanently if a worker becomes disabled. This includes mental conditions, though proving the condition is work-related is challenging.
Why Is It Difficult to Prove My Mental Condition is Work Related?
The ambiguity surrounding mental health conditions often leads to disputes, arguing the condition is cause by something other than the workplace. Generally, to qualify, the condition must be severe enough to affect a worker’s ability to perform their job duties.
New Jersey does not require proof of a physical injury in Workers’ Compensation psychiatric claims and accepts psychiatric conditions that occur gradually due to a single traumatic event. In order to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits, mental health illnesses or injuries must meet the following criteria:
- Work conditions are objectively stressful
- Believable evidence supporting the employee’s stressful reactions to the conditions
- Objectively stressful conditions must be “peculiar” to the specific workplace
- Evidence supporting the psychiatric condition or disability
- The court must consider the entirety of the case and the employee’s predisposition when entering the employment
These standards make obtaining Workers’ Compensation benefits difficult. Hiring an experienced attorney is your best option to prepare acceptable evidence and establish a successful case. If approved, you may be eligible for five different types of Workers’ Compensation benefits, depending on the type and severity of your condition, including:
- Medical treatment
- Temporary total compensation
- Permanent partial compensation
- Permanent total benefits
- Death compensation benefits for dependents of a deceased employee’s work-related injury or illness
If an employer disputes a Workers’ Compensation claim, the burden is on the employee to provide evidence to support the claim that the illness or injury is work-related. Proving a physical injury is relatively simple, but mental injuries, however, can be far more challenging.
Mental injuries not directly related to a single traumatic event, such as a workplace shooting, can be profoundly more difficult to prove. Many mental conditions accrue over time, making it harder to prove the condition was brought on by work and not other sources of anxiety or stress. Working with an experienced mental health professional is one way to overcome the burden of proof as they may be able to establish cause and provide expert testimony.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C., Represent Clients with Work-related Emotional Distress Claims
If you suffer from a psychological condition related to your workplace, the experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C., can help you compile evidence supporting your claim. Call us today at 888-999-1962 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina.