Workers’ Compensation for Mental Health Disorders

It’s not unusual for a mental health condition to be brought on by the work environment. There is a growing pressure to work long hours, link your phone to work email accounts, and participate in extracurricular activities with the companies. People often neglect their health and wellbeing in favor of being a good employee, believing that this everything that’s expected of them is just how things are supposed to be. As a result, anxiety disorders, depression, and even PTSD as a result of work-related stress has become a growing problem in the United States.

Most people know of workers’ compensation, but the fact that it can cover mental health injuries as well is lesser-known. In California, these are called “psychiatric injuries,” and while it is more difficult to obtain benefits for these conditions, you can enlist the help of a skilled workers’ compensation attorney.

What Qualifies as a Psychiatric Injury?

In order to qualify for a psychiatric injury, you will need to experience sufficient anxiety and stress that performing your job becomes close to impossible. For example, if stress from work or a traumatic event has made it difficult for you to concentrate or speak with coworkers or customers.

In California, you must meet the following requirements to qualify for psychiatric injury workers’ comp:

  • You must have a diagnosed mental disorder
  • You require medical treatment for the disorder or were unable to work because of it
  • You must have worked for an employer for at least six months unless the injury was caused by a traumatic event
  • You must prove that work-related stress was the predominant cause of the injury

It’s not easy to prove that a job caused a psychiatric injury. Insurance companies aggressively fight these claims, so you and your attorney will need to spend plenty of time preparing the claim and gathering evidence. Generally, it is easier to prove a psychiatric injury when a traumatic event such as an injury or witnessing a coworker’s injury caused the distress. However, it is possible to prove a claim caused by persistent stress such as discrimination, harassment, or an uncomfortable work environment.

Possible Obstacles

Employers and the insurance company will do everything they can to diminish or deny your claim. Some people try to file claims based on the financial status of the company or their employer, but these are not considered eligible for workers’ comp. Stress caused by downsizing in a company is not counted either.

Additionally, an employer may try to prove that your mental stress is caused by poor performance at work, not the other way around. A good way to prevent this is to have a record of mental health counseling and treatment before the condition has a chance to affect your job. However, even if you did not do this, it is still possible to challenge these claims.

What You Should Know

The benefits from psychiatric injuries are generally less than those for physical injuries. That said, the point of these benefits is to give you time to address your mental distress without suffering financial difficulties. Benefits can still include compensation for time taken off work and medical expenses.

Be sure to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you feel you have suffered a psychiatric injury due to work-related stress. Your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health – don’t neglect it!

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