Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & Workers' Compensation

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:

  • Firefighters
  • 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 disability
  • 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 Polaris Law Group, 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.

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