Injuries that fall under the heading of workers’ compensation aren’t always limited to physical symptoms. A post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD workers’ comp claim can pay you more benefits if you qualify.
Basically, workers’ comp injuries are those that take place at the worksite or while an employee is acting on behalf of the employer. Some conditions apply that can impact the amount of compensation the employee is eligible for. For example, if the employee was intoxicated or engaged in horseplay when the accident occurred, the employer is not liable for the accident. On the other hand, if the employer fails to carry workers’ comp insurance, this forfeits their protection under the law and opens them up to a lawsuit and the potential to pay a lot more.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
This condition refers to the continued stress that a person suffers following an injury or severe shock. Symptoms often include vivid recall of their experience and experiencing the “flight or fight” response when everyday events trigger the memories. The intensity of symptoms and their duration vary from person to person. Some recover within months while others have symptoms for the rest of their lives.
PTSD is most familiar to us as a condition that affects people who serve in the military. The trauma of battle and the intense fear soldiers feel cause them to relive the event long after their service has ended.
The relationship between PTSD and workers’ comp is similar. Workers’ comp injuries sometimes occur from serious accidents that cause the employee to fear for their life. Emergency service personnel might be exposed to gruesome scenes such as fires, severe car accidents, shootings or stabbings. But any employee in any setting can become the victim of a horrific accident or an act of violence on the job.
One example is the recent rash of school shootings that increasingly plague our nation’s schools today. A teacher who is trained to educate young students is suddenly a witness to the massacre of students she teaches every day. Few teachers ever expect to be in a position where they will witness such a scene and wonder if they will escape with their own lives.
Can you imagine watching your students gunned down around you? Many say that they relive the scenes in their head every day. Once school is back in session, they must return to the same place where these terrible events took place. Those who suffer from PTSD often leave their job and are unable to return to their teaching careers in any location.
When an employee is a victim or a witness to a gruesome accident or an act of violence, PTSD is a very real threat. Workers’ comp simply isn’t sufficient to cover their expenses for medical treatment; much less enough to cover their living expenses while they are unable to return to work.
Some employees with PTSD experience the original trauma in the form of flashbacks or nightmares. Any trigger that reminds them of the traumatic event can trigger emotional distress or a physical response ranging from depression to severe anxiety.
Types of PTSD Workers’ Comp Claims
PTSD workers’ comp claims are a type of “mental-mental” claim. This means the employees’ psychological or mental problem resulted from a mental or psychological condition in the workplace.
Physical-mental claims are those that result in the employee’s development of a psychological condition due to a physical cause. An employee might develop the same symptom such as insomnia, but it is because of a physical injury that caused them pain.
Mental-mental PTSD workers comp claims are the most difficult claims to prove. Sometimes they aren’t even allowed at all. The conditions under which a PTSD workers’ comp claim can be filed varies from one state to the next. In Arizona, the claims are only allowed if the condition results from extraordinary events. Several states only accept claims for PTSD in which there is also a physical injury. In California, employment conditions must be a minimum of 51% responsible for the PTSD injury. In addition, the employer must have been there for six months or longer.
Growing Legal Acceptance of PTSD
As the number of “extreme and unusual” events continue to become more common in the workplace, the laws related to PTSD workers’ comp claims also grow in acceptance. That increase in acceptance doesn’t necessarily apply to the insurance company responsible for paying your claim. They will challenge every facet of your claim to keep from paying you the money you deserve.
PTSD claims are classified as mental claims since many do not include a physical injury. PTSD workers’ comp claims make up only a small percent of all workers’ comp claims filed. Those that include a mental component of any kind apply to an estimated 1% of all claims. In spite of this small number, the total for these claims equals nearly $150 billion annually! With that number growing, it isn’t surprising that insurance companies use any tactic available to discredit as many of these claims as possible.
Even if you have records from a psychologist or psychiatrist to prove your PTSD diagnosis, the insurance company will probably check any previous mental health records. Some companies even check your credit report and criminal history.
If you experience a traumatic event on the job, don’t wait to talk with a workers’ comp attorney about your situation. Often, victims don’t experience PTSD symptoms for months after the event. Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional to talk confidentially about any symptoms that appear. If the symptoms result from PTSD, they are more likely to get worse than better.
Contact The House of Workers’ Compensation to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help you understand your rights. Let us help you get the compensation you deserve for your mental and/or physical injuries that occurred on the job. We can help you understand whether you need to file a PTSD workers’ comp claim and how to take the first step to make your case.