Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health issue that sometimes occurs after individuals experience or witness a distressing or life-threatening event. Symptoms of PTSD include frequently reliving the incident (having bad dreams, nightmares, etc.), the desire to avoid situations that might provide a reminder of the event, negative feelings such as guilt or shame, constant jitters or being on the lookout for danger, depression and the inability to concentrate. While these symptoms typically occur soon after the traumatic event, they may not appear for several months or even years.
While PTSD is most often associated with military combat veterans, it can also occur in the civilian workforce. Professionals who are most susceptible to the onset of PTSD symptoms include police officers and emergency medical workers who witness disturbing incidents on almost a daily basis. However, specific workplace incidents can also trigger PTSD symptoms — consider the construction worker who sees a coworker falling from heights, a woman who is the victim of sexual assault while at work or a school teacher who witnesses a mass shooting.
PTSD and Mental Health Workers’ Comp Claims
Workers’ comp insurance can provide financial benefits such as replacement of lost wages and payment of medical bills if an employee is unable to work due to a job-related accident or illness. While workers’ comp typically applies to physical injuries, it may also provide coverage for mental disorders. Mental illness-based workers’ comp claims can fit into the following categories:
- Physical-mental — When a physical injury or illness leads to the development of a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety
- Mental-physical — When a work-related mental disorder leads to the onset of a physical issue
- Mental-mental — When a psychological stimulus manifests as a mental illness, which is exemplified by PTSD
Receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits for PTSD Can Be a Challenge
While the workers’ comp laws in many states permit the payment of benefits for PTSD, they can be challenging to obtain. You typically must be able to demonstrate that you have experienced a situation where you feared for your life or experienced a traumatizing event that could be considered extraordinary in comparison to your “normal” working conditions. You must also demonstrate that the resulting symptoms are hindering your ability to work. A formal PTSD diagnosis from a company-approved psychiatrist or psychologist is also required.
Many employers are highly skeptical of PTSD-related workers’ comp claims. Expect scrutiny from your employer and its workers’ comp insurance carrier, as they will look for any reason to limit your benefits or deny your claim. The insurance company’s investigators will likely delve into your personal and medical history to uncover any information that could discredit your claim.
If you are in Kansas or Missouri and need help with a PTSD-related workers’ comp claim, the expert legal professionals at Phalen Law Firm may be able to increase your odds of a successful outcome. We also offer free initial consultations.