Recently, legislators and other stakeholders in the workers’ comp
system have drawn their attention towards post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) injuries in the workplace. With more focus going towards how those
who suffer from PTSD after a work-related event are compensated, it is
important to be aware of this type of workplace injury. In this blog,
we explain what you need to know about post-traumatic stress disorder
and workers’ compensation.
PTSD in the Workplace
Although PTSD and other mental injuries are not commonly claimed under
workers’ comp, some experts believe the frequency might increase due to:
- Unreasonable workloads
- Long hours
- Poor work-life balance
Several states have looked into expanding PTSD injury compensation, particularly
for first responders like:
- Police officers
- Emergency medical technicians
- Correctional officers
- Emergency dispatch operators
- Child protective services employees
The state of Florida recently enacted Senate Bill 376, which allows first
responders suffering from PTSD to qualify for workers' compensation
indemnity benefits under certain circumstances. The bill also doesn’t
require a physical injury to file a claim for PTSD.
Workers’ rights advocates and other organizations have raised public
awareness about the importance of reducing the stigma associated with
mental injuries like PTSD. These groups warn that number of claims filed
and deemed compensable can be impacted by the negative stigma surrounding
mental disorders. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now categorizes PTSD as a “Trauma-
and Stress-Related Disorder,” instead of an anxiety disorder.
What Is a PTSD Injury?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is defined as
“a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a
shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” In order to be diagnosed with
PTSD, a person must have all of the following things for at least one month:
- At least one symptom they re-experience
- At least one symptom of avoidance
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
For workers' compensation claims, PTSD injuries are considered a subset
of mental injuries, which are broadly defined in the following three categories:
Physical-mental: Physical injury that progresses to include a mental injury or
Mental-physical: Mental condition that contributes to physical injury or disability
Mental-mental: Mental injury or disability that occurs without a physical injury
While PTSD injuries can arise in any of these three categories listed above,
in order for the injury to be considered work-related, the degree of the
stress must be proven in order to be compensable.
What Workers Are at Risk?
Any worker who witnesses violence or a horrific accident while they are
at work can potentially develop PTSD or other mental injuries. This can
also apply to workers who view stressful content over video or other media
as part of their job duties. First responders are especially susceptible
to mental injuries. In fact, it is estimated that PTSD is significantly
higher for first responders compared to the general public. The US Department
of Veterans Affairs says roughly 55% of the general population will experience
at least one traumatic event in their lives and about 8% of the population
will have PTSD in their lifetime. The National Center for Biotechnical
Information says PTSD among emergency medical technicians (EMTs) is greater than 20%.
Talk to an Employment Law Attorney
If you need help obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD,
you should speak to our
employment law lawyer about what our law firm can do for you. At
Marder Employment Law, we are here to guide you through your case and ensure your rights are
fully protected. If you feel you are being treated unfairly by your employer,
call (888) 796-4010 to schedule your free consultation.
Contact our Hollister employment law attorney
to get started on your case today.