Employees who suffer a broken leg or a repetitive stress injury at work usually do not have trouble proving the extent of their injuries to an employer. The employee may have to provide copies of medical bills and other treatment records, but they will have clear evidence of their injury and the suffering it has caused.
But what about employees whose suffering is internal? Can they still be granted workers’ compensation benefits, even if their injuries are mental rather than physical?
Common Issues When Claiming Mental Illness for Workers’ Compensation
Although awareness of depression and other mental conditions has slightly improved over the past decade, many employers still fail to recognize mental illness as a compensable condition for workers’ compensation. However, some employees can be granted workers’ comp depending on the conditions of their claim, including:
- Physical injuries. It is much more likely for an employee’s claim for a mental injury to be approved if he has also suffered a physical injury on the job. Many employees who have suffered serious accidents at work may become depressed or anxious during their recovery, especially if they are worried about how they will heal and if they can continue working. Worker’s compensation generally allows payment for medical conditions that arise due to a work-related injury, including psychological issues.
- Stress claims. Some workplaces allow employees to collect worker’s comp for mental anguish caused by stress in the workplace. The qualifications will vary from employer to employer, but can range from any stress at work to anxiety caused by witnessing a tragedy (such as a coworker’s death). In order to prevent abuse, many companies will only pay out claims due to workplace stress if the employee’s suffering is caused by events beyond the stress of the job itself (such as harassment or threats from an employee or superior).
- Primary cause. In order for an employee to be compensated for a mental condition, he or she will have to be able to prove that work is the primary cause of the psychiatric injury. An employee can be suffering from other stressors (such as diagnosed bipolar disorder or a recent divorce), but he or she will have to be able to prove that work is a significant source of psychiatric stress in order to collect worker’s comp.
- Work history. Many cases of mental claims will be won or lost depending on the employee’s employment history. If the employer believes that the employee was a trustworthy and competent worker prior to the event, the employer is more likely to accept a mental injury claim. However, the employer’s insurance adjuster may investigate a mental injury claim by examining the personal life of the employee, including a background check, credit investigation, criminal background check, and a thorough examination of prior mental health issues.
As the degree of a psychological condition is often subjective, many workers’ comp claims will rely on expert opinions from psychiatrists or other mental health professionals. Your attorney can tell you whether an independent medical consultant will benefit your case. Call us today at (888) 348-2616 for help with your claim, or read through our free accident guide, How to Avoid Becoming a Work Injury Horror Story.