When considering workers’ compensation, one of the most frequently asked questions is about mental health coverage. While the short answer is affirmative, the details surrounding which mental conditions are covered require a nuanced understanding.
The first category that often comes under consideration involves a physical injury causing a mental ailment. Consider this scenario: a worker sustains a physical injury, such as a herniated disc, leading to significant pain and disability.
Due to the incapacitating nature of the injury, feelings of despair set in, perhaps because they cannot participate in everyday activities or earn as they used to. When the pain and disability from the injury become a substantial cause for this emotional distress, the consequent mental condition, like depression, becomes compensable.
The second type is the mental-physical claim. This involves a traumatic event at work that leads to a physical ailment. A widely cited instance is the case of a law officer who, after discovering a particularly distressing scene, suffers a heart attack. Here, the profound emotional stress from the traumatic discovery is deemed a significant contributor to the subsequent physical condition.
Mental-mental claims revolve around highly stressful jobs that lead to conditions like anxiety or depression. Interestingly, the acknowledgment of these conditions has been an area of contention. Historical rulings in Minnesota, for instance, have stated that a purely mental stimulus resulting in a mental ailment doesn’t fall under the workers’ compensation statute.
This perspective changed somewhat after a tragic event where a shooter caused multiple fatalities and injuries in a school. While those directly affected received compensation, those traumatized by witnessing the event did not. Their claims, categorized under the mental-mental bracket, were denied.
However, following these events, around 2013, the legislation shifted. An exception for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was introduced. It’s essential to note that this exception is narrow and specifically tied to PTSD. The diagnosis needs to be made by a licensed physician or psychiatrist and must meet DSM-5 requirements.
Get Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Your Mental Health Issues
While there are still strict guidelines to determine the eligibility of mental health conditions for workers’ compensation, there is a growing recognition of their validity. As society’s understanding of mental health continues to evolve, so too does the framework within which these conditions are assessed and compensated. Contact Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law today to speak with an attorney about whether mental health issues are covered by workers’ compensation.