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Workers’ Compensation and Mental Illness

Mental Health and Workers’ Compensation

If you have a mental illness due to your job or employer, then you should know as much information as possible in order to receive the full benefits that you deserve. There are many individuals who suffer from mental illnesses due to work factors, such as stress, depression, anxiety of even post-traumatic stress disorder. These mental disorders can very well be covered under workers’ compensation. Similar with physical injuries, PA state workers’ compensation laws may cover illnesses that arise from a singular even such as PTSD or conditions that result over time, such as depression or anxiety.

It can be very complex and difficult pursuing a mental illness claim for workers’ compensation. One of the reasons is tracing the mental illness to the job, since workers’ compensation is available for those injuries and illnesses that arise from the course of employment. Therefore, a claimant must be able to establish the causal link between the workplace and the mental illness. The court may require the claimant to show from an objective standpoint how the mental illness was work-related. This may even require a determination that the work conditions objectively would have led to a mental health issue, such as an objectively stressful work condition. As such, this may require the claimant to demonstrate that the stress of a particular position was greater than the stress inherent in any job.

What is a PA Mental Injury Claim?

If you want to file a workers’ compensation claim based on psychological injury, it will probably fall under one of these three types of psychological injuries:

Physical-Mental Injury: A mental injury can occur due to a physical event. If you suffer a work-related injury while using a piece of equipment, using that equipment again may create a level of anxiety or fear that makes it difficult for you to do your job.

Mental-Physical Injury: Mental distress can result in physical injuries. If you work in an occupation where it is important that you do your job correctly or you may be terminated, the worry and stress that result can affect you physically. Severe migraines, ulcers or heart attacks are possible outcomes of this kind of mental distress.

Mental-Mental Injury: Workers’ compensation systems differ from state to state. Many states do not recognize mental-mental injuries as eligible for worker’s compensation. Pennsylvania does. This is an injury that develops as a result of a psychological trauma experienced in the workplace. Your bank is robbed. There is an active shooter incident at your company. An explosion occurs at your workplace. All these incidents can cause you to develop depression or anxiety if you feel that your life has been endangered.

Who is Eligible for Mental Injury Claims?

Under Pennsylvania law, any business or individual in Pennsylvania employing more than one person is legally required to participate in the workers’ compensation system. While there are some exemptions, including federal employees, longshoremen, railway workers and some classes of agricultural workers, the state’s workers’ compensation system protects workers in all industries who sustain work-related injuries or illnesses. The Pennsylvania commonwealth and supreme courts have upheld numerous challenges to those laws. It is important to be aware that, unless there is a physical injury that directly causes a mental injury, many injured workers in Pennsylvania are required to prove that the stress was the result of an “abnormal working condition.” This is sometimes difficult to prove, and you should talk to one of our attorneys about your specific work environment.

Examples of abnormal working conditions for an employee’s mental health are:

  • Liquor store manager robbed at gunpoint
  • Wrongfully accused of a crime by a supervisor
  • Dramatic change in working conditions
  • Near encounter with a serious injury
  • Crude sexual comments demonstrating a course of conduct of a supervisory employee clearly calculated to cause severe emotional distress

There are many injuries or illnesses covered by workers’ compensation that do not occur as a result of accidents with machines, trips or falls, or lifting something too heavy. It is important to know that anxiety, depression and other symptoms of mental illnesses may be harder to detect, but the effect they can have on a worker’s physical and mental state can be just as serious.

When Should I File a Claim for a Psychological Injury?

If you have been diagnosed with a psychological injury, you must treat it the same as any other work-related injury or illness. In Pennsylvania, an injured worker has 120 days to report their illness or injury to their employer. In some cases, and psychological injuries may fall in this category. An injured worker may not be aware of an injury or an illness until diagnosed by a physician. In these instances, the injured worker has 120 days after receiving the diagnosis to report it to their employer.

If an employer denies workers’ compensation benefits, an injured or ill worker has three years from the date of the injury or from the date of when they were diagnosed with an illness or an injury to file a workers’ compensation claim.

If you have been diagnosed with a psychological injury, report it to your employer as soon as possible. This is particularly the case with mental injury claims. Employers and their insurance carriers do not like to pay workers’ compensation benefits for any reason. They are especially reluctant to do so with psychological injuries. If you wait until the last second to report your injury, your employer’s insurance company will argue you are not really hurt because you waited so long to report it.

This is why you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you are diagnosed with a psychological injury. They can help you prepare your claim so you can receive the benefits to which you may be entitled.

Legal Assistance

It is highly advisable for individuals pursuing a workers’ compensation claim often retain the services of a workers’ compensation lawyer to provide advice and guidance during the claims process. With mental health injuries, this is crucial given the complexity of the situation and the difficulty of establishing the causal link.

A workers’ compensation lawyer is able to review the evidence to determine if a claim is viable and make a recommendation regarding how to proceed with the case. Additionally, he or she can provide information about whether other benefits may be available, such as Social Security benefits.

In Pennsylvania, the workers’ compensation system covers psychological injury that affects an employee’s ability to do their job in certain situations. Though mental injury claims at work can be difficult to prove, with the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, you may qualify for benefits because of psychological injury.

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