Can You Receive Workers’ Compensation for a Mental Injury?
The horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando might have occurred months ago, but the damage is still very real. The city is still grieving and survivors are slowly recovering from their physical injuries. For some, the mental distress is the most damaging of all.
One first responder is struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the deadly shooting, but cannot find peace. He and his team were tasked with removing the 49 bodies from the nightclub following the June 12th shooting. As a result, he claims that he suffers from sleeping issues, flashbacks, and other symptoms of PTSD. Though he is on paid leave, his claims for workers’ compensation were rejected, since his injuries are not physical.
In some cases, PTSD goes hand-in-hand with a physical injury, making it easier to seek workers’ compensation. For example, if an employee lost an arm while working on a machine and later suffered PTSD as a result of the traumatic incident, they have a higher chance of receiving workers compensation. Unlike someone without a physical injury, they will be able to prove that their injury results from a traumatic incident.
Receiving Workers’ Compensation for a Mental Illness is Rare
When it comes to mental illness and workers’ compensation, there are three categories:
- Physical-Mental: a physical injury or illness causes a mental illness. If an employee injures their back during a slip-and-fall at work, and then develops depression as a result of their pain or immobility, it would be a physical-mental issue. In this case, the physical injury is the catalyst.
- Mental-Physical: A mental illness issue leads to a physical issue. For example, an anxiety disorder causes someone to constantly feel stress, leading to high blood pressure, a physical manifestation of their mental illness. While the mental illness is the main factor here, physical symptoms are still present.
- Mental-Mental: A psychological stimulus leads to the development of mental health issues. In the example of the Pulse nightclub shooting first responder, moving the bodies was the psychological stimuli that lead to the mental issue. Another example of psychological triggers might include witnessing a fellow employee’s death or horrific injury.
Due to the lack of a physical injury or illness, mental-mental cases are the hardest to prove. In some cases, when the psychological event is unusual for the line of work (a teacher witnesses a school shooting, for example), then workers’ compensation potentially covers the mental illness. For people like police officers, firefighters, and EMTs, however, mental workers’ compensation claims are often dismissed, since their jobs tend to include trauma and violence. So, for people like the Pulse nightclub first responder, the chances of receiving workers’ compensation are not very high.
For more information on workers’ compensation, please visit the FAQ section of our website.
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.