Workers who suffer physical injuries because of a workplace accident are generally entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits to cover the costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the workplace is often the source of not only physical but psychological injuries such as anxiety, insomnia, depression or emotional distress. Treatment for mental injuries can be extensive and expensive, requiring many hours of therapy and medication in certain cases.
Many workers wonder if treatment for those mental health conditions is also covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance. In certain limited cases, the answer is yes. Although it may be more difficult to obtain Workers’ Compensation benefits for psychological conditions, it may be possible.
Workers’ Compensation insurance only covers treatment for injuries arising out of the course of employment. In order to prove your workplace was the primary cause of a mental issue like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety, these conditions must result from activities that occur during the course of your employment and most likely at your place of employment. This can be exceptionally difficult without the assistance of a qualified Workers’ Compensation lawyer.
Workers who suffer both physical and mental harm resulting from a workplace accident may be more likely to receive compensation for the mental conditions resulting from their physical injuries. For example, if a piece of factory equipment physically injures a worker and the worker later suffers from PTSD because of the experience, most Workers’ Compensation insurers will cover treatment for mental condition.
Other workers receive Workers’ Compensation for mental health issues when they can prove they suffered physical symptoms as result of the mental condition caused by a work-related event. If a worker can demonstrate abnormal working conditions caused work-related stress that results in a heart attack or other physical problem, they may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. To be eligible for the benefits, the worker must establish a direct link between the physical condition and mental disorder.
When a worker suffers only mental harm as a result of a workplace situation, it becomes much more difficult to prove entitlement to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Workers generally need to prove the workplace stress was so extreme as to cause the mental trauma. This would involve extraordinary workplace stress such as witnessing a horrific event, being a victim of or witness to workplace violence, or being robbed at gunpoint.
Receiving Compensation for Mental Injuries
Workers’ Compensation insurance companies may try to limit the amount and duration of compensation benefits for mental injuries on the basis these types of injuries are temporary or “fixable.” Although some severe mental impairments prevent workers from ever returning to work, workers are rarely awarded permanent disability for mental health conditions due to the difficulty in assessing mental conditions to determine a worker’s permanent disability rating. Workers’ Compensation insurers are more likely to reimburse workers for the cost of medical expenses and temporary wages when worker take short leave periods to address their mental health issues.