Can You Collect Workers’ Comp For A Mental Health Condition?

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An individual may develop a mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, over time due to work conditions or after a singular event at work. Mental illnesses often prolong a worker’s disability and the cost of their injury. In some states, an employee is eligible for workers’ compensation if they can establish a diagnosed mental disorder that has caused them to become disabled and receive treatment. Other states do not cover mental illness unless a physical workplace injury accompanies it.

Workplace-Related Mental Conditions

There are several psychological and psychiatric disorders that could be workplace-related. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression are just a few of the most common. 

Depression is a mood disorder that may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger. The symptoms include irritability, trouble concentrating, and loss of interest, which can drastically affect a person’s ability to work.

50 percent or more of injured workers experience clinically related depressive symptoms, especially during the first month of the injury. 

Anxiety disorders are increased or excessive alertness, fear, and physical signs, such as a rapid heart rate.  Approximately 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorder.

Stress and anxiety are two of the leading causes of work absence. Research shows that they account for a third of national absences.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Research has shown that PTSD changes certain brain functions and can severely impact a sufferer’s ability to work and function in daily life.

PTSD occurs in 32% of first responders, which includes 19% of police officers.

There are three categories of mental disability cases: 

  1. Physical-mental disability is when a physical injury leads to a psychological problem. A physically injured worker could develop severe depression if their condition is not improving, and the pain is terrible. Since the physical injury caused the mental injury, workers’ comp benefits would be available under Illinois and Missouri law to cover the treatment of depression, as long as a physician has diagnosed it.
  2. Mental-physical disability happens when an emotional experience causes a physical reaction and disability. Suppose an employee who operates a forklift experiences a near-death experience when the forklift sends a large load toward him. He was not physically injured but starts having panic attacks whenever he gets in to drive the forklift. Since there was no physical injury, some states won’t recognize this type of instance as eligible for workers’ comp benefits as it is not a work-related injury. 
  3. Mental-mental disability is where some mental stimulus causes a psychological disability. A designated first responder who experiences a school shooting could develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Some states may not recognize this as a work-related injury and thus would not allow workers’ comp benefits.

In Illinois, under certain circumstances, an injured worker can obtain Illinois workers’ compensation benefits for purely psychological injuries. 

Under Missouri law, a mental injury is compensable only if the employee demonstrates that the stress-causing psychological injury is work-related and was “extraordinary and unusual.”

Is a Psychiatric illness a disability?

Psychiatric and psychological injuries can be debilitating and can render an individual unable to function at their job. They require treatment by professional medical personnel and time to heal, just as a physical injury would. During the period of disability, the employee will likely need help covering medical expenses and the lost income from their job.

How to apply for workers’ comp benefits for a mental illness

Applying for workers’ compensation benefits for a mental health disability is the same as for any other work-related injury or illness. In addition to notifying your employer within the allowed period that you are suffering from a work-related mental condition; you must be diagnosed with the condition by a qualified physician. Additionally, the doctor must determine that the condition developed in the course of, or due to, an employee’s occupation.

An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help determine whether a causal link to your employment can support your claim. They can also provide you advice on how to proceed with the case. Contact Walton Telken Injury Attorneys and schedule your free case evaluation today.

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