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Mental injuries in work comp cases

By December 8, 2008 No Comments

We all know that physical injuries are covered under work comp. What is not so clear is whether mental or emotional problems are covered. In certain situations, mental/emotional problems are covered by Minnesota workers’ compensation.

The law differentiates between mental injuries and places them into three categories.

  1. Mental/Physical – This means the mental injury  causes a physical injury (i.e. heart attacks, ulcers, GERD, etc.).
  2. Physical/ Mental – This means the physical injury causes the mental injury.
  3. Mental/ Mental – This means where the mental stimulus causes a mental injury.

Mental/ Physical

In order for a mental/physical injury to be compensable there must be medical evidence to prove that a physical condition was the result of the mental stress. For example, you would a medical doctor to opine that the physical and mental condition are related.

Once medical causation has been met, it necessary that prove legal causation. By that, there must be evidence that the stress was extreme or beyond the day to day stress exposed by all employees.

The existence of stress in the workplace must be proven by means other than the injured worker’s testimony. The stress needs to be compared to all employees.

Physical/ Mental

It is well established in Minnesota that a physical injury results in a mental condition workers’ compensation will cover the mental condition. However, the work injury itself still needs to be a substantial contributing factor or cause to the injured worker’s mental disability.

Mental/ Mental

One of the more controversial and also scrutinized areas in work comp is the area of mental/ mental injuries.  To date, the Minnesota courts have refused to recognize a mental/ mental injury although other states have been adopting mental/ mental injuries as work related.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has stated that it is up to the Minnesota legislature to establish whether mental/ mental injuries should be compensable.

There has been a strong push as of late for mental/ mental injuries to be compensable in Minnesota.  In certain cases, mental/ mental injuries should be allowed. For example, a woman who develops PTSD following a robbery at her place of employment should be entitled to benefits. Under the law now, she would not be covered unless there was a physical injury to her from the robbery or her mental state caused a physical injury.

The legislature needs to take a close look at carving out an exception to the present law. I understand the slippery slope argument but in certain situations a mental/ mental injury should be compensable.

jerry sisk

jerry sisk

Jerry is a Minnesota workers' compensation attorney and work injury lawyer. He a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association, Minnesota Association of Justice, and Anoka County Bar Association. He has 10/10 on Avvo, 5 Stars on Google, AV Rated through Martindale-Hubbell and National Trial Lawyers Top 100. Currently, he is Co-Chair of the Work Comp Section of the Minnesota Association of Justice.

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