Workers’ compensation to provide financial assistance to workers who sustain a number of injuries while on the job. However, does this compensation cover any type of injury, even those that are not visible to the naked eye?
More specifically, is emotional distress covered under workers’ compensation? We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
Are These Injuries Covered?
The problem with emotional injuries is they are not as easy to point out. It is for this reason that emotional stress injuries can be quite difficult to prove. Every state has its own set of workers’ compensation laws, and what types of injuries are covered vary based on the jurisdiction.
Some states do not cover workers’ compensation claims for emotional stress. Others may cover them but may limit how much is covered or what types of emotional or mental stress injuries are included.
It is important that the client consult his or her state statute before making a decision on pursuing a claim for emotional distress injuries.
What Are Emotional or Mental Stress Injuries?
Emotional and mental stress injuries can include anxiety, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder. When someone is working in an extremely high-stress work environment, the emotional stress can often then manifest itself into physical symptoms.
It can seriously impair the employee’s ability to work with others, be productive at work or even have personal relationships outside of work.
What is the Standard of Proof?
In pretty much all workers’ compensation policies, medical conditions must be proven to receive any payment of damages. Medical conditions that are connected to mental health can sometimes be covered by the workers’ compensation, but it must be proven that work was the primary cause of the mental “injury.”
This proof normally involves showing that abnormal working conditions contributed to this emotional or mental stress injury. These can be challenging to prove. It is one thing to show how a broken limb occurred from an on-the-job fall.
It is an entirely different burden to show that conditions at work directly led to emotional distress. This difficult standard of proof can be why many states choose to not include these types of injuries in those normally covered under workers’ compensation.
Some states, such as Florida, will allow emotional or mental distress to be compensated only if physical trauma also resulted from the stress.
In some states, such as Florida, if an emotional or mental health injury stems from mere stress or excitement, it does not qualify as a work-related accident. Normal stress is to be expected under any type of work situation.
It is for this reason that many states require some type of physical injury that requires medical treatment for the injury to be included. If a mental injury or emotional distress has resulted from being physically injured, some states also require the individual to prove by “clear and convincing medical evidence,” provided by a licensed psychiatrist, that the mental injury stems directly as a result of that physical injury.
Workers’ compensation will not normally cover emotional or mental injuries that stem from depression caused from losing a job or any mental health illness that comes along with a pre-existing condition.
Documenting the Stress
If the employee’s work situation is so stressful that it is causing him or her emotional distress, it is recommended that the first step be the employee speak with his or her superiors and the human resources department.
Submit a formal report and create a trail of evidence. All of this will be a part of the employer’s permanent file and can be used later if the situation gets so out of hand that a claim needs to be brought.
Emotional Stress Not Covered?
If the employee is in a state where emotional or mental health stress is not covered in a workers’ compensation claim, he or she may still have other legal remedies, one of these pursuing a personal injury claim.
An attorney can help guide the client through the steps and advise the client on whether he or she has a claim for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress against the employer.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you are in the process of pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions about what type of injuries are included, a workers’ compensation attorney can help review your case and discuss your options.
An attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed. Contact an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law to schedule a consultation today.