Have your work conditions caused you to develop a mental illness? You may be wondering:
- What if my illness prevents me from working?
- Am I eligible to file a claim for Workers' Comp?
- What do I need to prove for a claim?
- Can a lawyer help me get benefits?
Getting Workers' Comp for mental health problems isn't easy, but our lawyers are here to help.
Our experienced work injury lawyers can help you get the mental health coverage you need.
According to Pennsylvania's Workers Compensation Act, any injury which directly relates to your job duties is compensable when that injury forces you to miss days from work. This applies both to injuries which occur in unexpected accidents and to slowly developing injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders. Mental illnesses are also covered by these benefits, however, receiving compensation for mental health problems is much more difficult than it is for other injuries.
Although receiving compensation is more difficult, that doesn't mean it's any easier to continue working with a serious mental illness. It may feel impossible to return to the same working environment which facilitated your problems. Workers who suffer from work-related mental illnesses deserve the same protection as those who suffer from physical injuries.
Like any other injury, you must prove that your illness is directly related to something that happened at work. In any work injury or illness claim, the employer and insurance company will take a skeptical approach and look for reasons to deny coverage. Common reasons for denials include arguing that the illness was pre-existing or that there is insufficient evidence to prove a link between your illness and your working conditions.
If you're suffering from a mental illness because of something you experienced at work, you do have options for help. Having an experienced work injury lawyer by your side greatly increases your chances of receiving coverage.
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Categories For Work-Related Mental Illnesses
Workers' Comp claims for mental illnesses are separated into three categories, with different requirements for each.
Physical-mental injuries involve physical injuries which later lead to a mental health condition. For example, let's say a construction worker had to have an arm amputated after getting caught in a piece of heavy machinery. This worker was later diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the traumatic accident. In this example, the worker would likely receive compensation for a physical-mental injury. These are the easiest mental health claims to win.
These injuries involve accidents which result in physical injuries but were caused by a mental health condition. An example would be a worker suffering a stress-related heart attack which causes a physical injury, such as broken bones suffered in a fall.
These claims involve mental illnesses which arise from traumatic experiences on the job. Successful claims must prove that the trauma exceeded the normal level of stress one could expect at your workplace. For example, if you were held up at gunpoint while working as a cashier at a convenience store and developed an anxiety disorder afterward, you may be eligible for Workers' Comp benefits. These are the most difficult mental health claims to win.
Examples Of Compensable Workplace Trauma
As we mentioned before, any work-related mental illness qualifies for compensation. This includes conditions acquired in singular traumatic experiences, such as witnessing a death. It also includes mental illnesses which have slowly built up over time, such as severe anxiety and depression. In either case, the claim depends on proving that the illness was caused by unreasonable workplace stress.
Workplace stress can severely impair your ability to do your job. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one in four workers reports stress or anxiety affecting their work in the past six months.
Examples of workplace conditions and incidents which could result in debilitating mental health problems include:
- Workplace violence, such as a nurse being attacked by a patient
- A truck driver being involved in a catastrophic motor vehicle accident
- Traumatic injuries involving lost limbs and amputations
- An anxiety disorder from being verbally abused or harassed by management or co-workers
- Witnessing a traumatic accident, such as a factory worker seeing his co-worker die after being caught in machinery
If you're suffering from a mental illness which you believe directly resulted from workplace trauma, don't be afraid to speak out. Although the claims process is difficult, the right work injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you're rightfully entitled to.
Do I Need To Have A Lawyer?
Given the difficulty of filing a successful mental illness claim, it's almost always necessary to have experienced legal counsel. Your employer and their insurance carrier are more likely to be skeptical of a mental illness claim. At Monheit Law, our lawyers can help you provide the medical evidence you need to prove that your mental health problems are a direct result of experiences at work.
Additionally, circumstances involving unreasonable workplace stress or abusive treatment could be grounds for a personal injury claim. A work injury lawyer can help you determine if this applies to your situation.
If you're thinking of filing a claim, we recommend taking the following steps as soon as possible:
- File a work-related illness report with your employer
- Seek medical attention and receive regular treatment, such as meeting with a therapist
- Schedule a free consultation with our work injury lawyers so that we can evaluate your situation