Workers’ compensation benefits cover more than just the victim’s physical injuries. Any misconception that the law only protects employees suffering from work-related injuries that are physical in nature is not true. California law protects workers from emotional and psychological injuries that occur in the workplace as well.
At Oktanyan Der-Grigorian Law Group, we understand that the psychological or emotional injuries that occur in the workplace can result in suffering that is very real, much like an injury that causes physical pain. However, we also routinely see how these types of injuries are treated with a high degree of skepticism by insurance companies, and are often denied, making it more challenging for you to get the benefits you need. Our attorneys will fight for your work related stress claims, take the necessary actions to help prove your injuries are valid, and help you secure the work related stress compensation you need for your care and well being. Call us at 818-230-2428 to find out how we can help you.
Psychiatric Injuries in the Workplace
A claim based on a work-related injury that is solely psychological in nature is referred to as a “stress claim.” In such cases, an employee has sustained emotional or mental injuries because of stressful conditions at the workplace. As the result of a stressful incident or ongoing stress, a worker may be unable to perform tasks such as interacting with others or focusing on the job. These types of psychological issues might force the worker to take time off from work. For example, such injuries often occur when an employee is subjected to a hostile work environment that subjects him or her to sexual harassment or threats, etc.
Psychological injuries might manifest in the form of panic attacks, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, in severe cases. A psychological injury may also occur as the result of a physical injury. For example, when a person is injured on the job, he or she may suffer from depression as a result of chronic pain, inability to return to work and worrying about pending payments and medical bills. Depression or mental illnesses that stem from physical injuries may qualify as a workplace psychiatric injury.
Proving a Psychiatric Injury
Under California’s workers’ compensation system, psychiatric injuries are treated differently compared to physical injuries. The reason for this is that psychological injuries cannot be diagnosed the same way as physical injuries. For example, when you suffer a broken bone injury, the fracture might be diagnosed with an x-ray. However, in the case of a psychological injury, such a medical device based diagnosis is typically not applicable or possible. This may make it more challenging to verify that the injury took place and exists. The source of the stress also plays an important part in determining whether the injury is compensable. For example, if the psychological injury is due to marital stress or other familial issues, such injuries are not compensable.
What Are the Requirements?
In order to file a workers’ compensation claim for psychiatric work injuries in California, the following requirements must be met:
- The employee must have a diagnosed mental condition that causes the disability and the need for medical treatment.
- The person must have been an employee for at least six months.
- The worker must be able to prove that the psychiatric or emotional injuries were “more likely than not” caused by the work environment.
What Are the Challenges?
The requirement to prove that the injury was caused by the workplace can be quite challenging. Under California law, the employee must prove that the working conditions were at least 51 percent responsible for his or her psychiatric injuries. That standard is lowered to 35 percent when the worker is a victim of work-related violence. What this standard generally means is that the worker must prove that other personal reasons were not the primary cause of his or her psychiatric injuries.
This is often difficult for employees because, during the investigation, their private lives are scrutinized as the insurance company digs into anything that they find, which they can pin down as the cause of your psychological issues including a history of mental illness, financial difficulties, marital problems, past or current drug use or even criminal history.
Claims can also be denied if the injuries were caused by good faith, nondiscriminatory personnel actions. For example, if the worker was passed up for a promotion for legitimate reasons or legitimately criticized for poor work performance, that cannot be the basis for a psychiatric injury claim. Also, the stress caused by the workers’ compensation process itself will not quality as a workplace psychological injury.
Dealing with Limited Benefits
In general, not only are there more stringent requirements for evidence in psychiatric injury cases, but also the benefits are more limited. For example, an employee who suffers from a psychiatric workplace injury may receive medical payments or temporary disability payments for taking time off work. But, permanent disability benefits are difficult to recover in such cases because it is presumed that once the worker is taken away from the stressful environment, he or she will fully recover.
When a psychiatric injury is caused by a work-related physical injury, the same rules apply when it comes to proving the injury. These types of injuries are also known as “compensable consequence” injuries because the psychological injury is the direct result of the physical injury. Some examples of these types of injuries include anxiety or sexual dysfunction that occurs as the result of a physical workplace injury. You may get your medical expenses paid for if you sought treatment for such disorders. However, workers may not get permanent disability benefits especially if the injury is the kind where a full recovery is possible. The exceptions are when someone is a victim of a work-related act of violence or someone who has suffered a catastrophic injury such as a traumatic brain injury or an amputation.
Need Help With Your Work Related Stress Claim? Obtain Your Free Consult From Top Rated Attorneys
Our experienced workers compensation lawyers have had remarkable success in helping those with psychiatric work injuries obtain monetary support and benefits. We understand that this can be a complex and challenging process for you to complete on your own. We will remain by your side, fight for your rights and help ensure that you get the support you need during this difficult time. Please call us at 818-230-2428 for a free and comprehensive consultation to help you determine what your options are.