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How Does Minnesota Manage Psychological Injury From Work?

By July 13, 2021August 12th, 2021No Comments

When you think about someone receiving workers’ compensation for a workplace injury, you probably imagine falls, overexertion, or vehicle accidents. All of these common work-related injuries have one thing alike: they are physical injuries. 

But what happens if you obtain a work-caused mental injury? Unfortunately, workers’ compensation benefits in Minnesota get trickier to understand regarding workplace psychological trauma. Although this type of injury is more difficult to prove, it is not impossible. With a skilled mental injury lawyer on your side, you can receive the compensation you deserve. 

Let’s unpack the details surrounding psychological injury claims in Minnesota. 

What Is a Psychological Injury?

Psychological injury refers to mental or psychiatric conditions created by a traumatic event, physical damage, or the actions or inactions of an individual. In the workplace, psychological injuries can result from:

  • Abusive behavior
  • Job insecurity
  • Harassment
  • High-stress situations
  • Physical injuries
  • Overworking
  • Inconsistent shift times
  • Unsafe noise levels

Psychological injuries are serious because they can affect a person’s thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors. For example, mental injuries often cause poor sleep patterns and eating habits, which can further impact someone’s overall health. The most common work-related psychological injuries are depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that causes heightened, consistent feelings of sadness, anger, or loss. These feelings often interfere with a person’s daily routine. For instance, at work, depression can lead to a loss of productivity. Depression symptoms affect a person’s mood and often their body, too. Common symptoms include:

  • Hopeless feeling
  • Irritability
  • Anxiousness
  • Frequent fatigue
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Substance abuse

In extreme cases, depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Treatment for depression is available through medication and various forms of therapy. Licensed psychologists and psychiatrists can diagnose depression and create a treatment plan. 

If you find yourself frequently crying at work, feeling immensely anxious when managing tasks, or find it difficult to concentrate or remember new information, you may have work-related depression. If you believe a hostile work environment caused your depression, you may be eligible for compensation.

Anxiety

When excessive anxiety is present, it may result in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). While everyone experiences anxiety sometimes, generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by constant worries about health, work, family, or socialization. GAD causes unrealistic or disproportionate feelings of anxiety which negatively affects a person’s daily life.

Common symptoms of GAD include:

  • Faster heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive, constant worry
  • Frequent crying
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Being easily startled
  • Headaches
  • Shallow breathing

If you believe a toxic or stressful work environment brought upon anxiety symptoms, you may be able to pursue workers’ compensation in Minnesota. To start, you will need a confirmed diagnosis from a psychiatrist. Anxiety treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy, anxiety medications, or a combination of both.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a severe condition that occurs in people who have experienced a traumatic event. These traumatic events often include:

  • Serious injury
  • Sexual violence
  • Exposure to death
  • Witnessing a natural disaster
  • War
  • Other life-threatening events

PTSD presents as a psychological injury when a person has difficulty recovering after a disturbing event. In the workplace, symptoms look like decreased productivity, frequent absences, and social withdrawal. Other symptoms include exaggerated responses to being startled, difficulty concentrating, poor sleep, and excess environmental alertness.

Jobs that most commonly cause PTSD for workers include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Paramedics
  • Firefighters
  • Military personnel
  • Police officers

Anyone who has experienced harassment, sexual violence, or physical injury in a workplace of any kind is also susceptible to developing PTSD. Like anxiety and depression, treatment is available through exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and reprocessing therapy. In some cases, psychiatrists can also prescribe certain medications to supplement therapy. 

Even though mental and physical injuries differ in workers’ compensation, damage relief is still available for psychological traumas. Minnesota defines a work-related injury as any condition caused, aggravated, or accelerated by employment activities. Therefore, if psychological damage reaches a point where your pre-existing psychiatric state has been significantly impacted, you may be able to sue for workers’ compensation. 

Not every situation of mental injury qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits in Minnesota. Minnesota law places instances of workplace mental injury into three categories:

  • Mental and Physical (Eligible for compensation)
  • Physical and Mental (Eligible for compensation)
  • Mental and Mental (Not eligible for compensation)

Mental Stress Producing Physical Injury

This type of mental stress is the easiest to prove in a claim because it leads to a concrete, physical injury. Minnesota Law validates workers’ compensation claims in this category under a few circumstances:

  • The person making a claim (claimant) must provide legal and medical proof that their mental injury caused the physical condition.
  • The claimant must prove the original work-related mental stress exceeded ordinary employee stress. 
  • The physical and mental injuries must require treatments independent of each other. 

An example of mental stress producing physical injury is extreme work-related anxiety resulting in an ulcer.

Physical Damage Producing Mental Injury

This type of injury is more challenging to prove, but it is not impossible. To receive compensation in Minnesota, certain conditions must be met:

  • The claimant must prove that a work-related physical injury caused or worsened a psychological injury.
  • A medical professional must make a clear connection between the physical injury and psychological damage.

Minnesota law states that physical trauma does not need to be the only cause of medical injury. If work-related physical damage was a contributing factor in your mental harm, you are still eligible. Additionally, the level of severity is not a factor in compensation claims. 

Mental Stress Producing Mental Injury

Minnesota does not compensate for mental injuries caused by mental stress. This is because the cause of injury in these cases is often too difficult to prove. 

There is one exception to this rule: If you can prove that work-related mental stress produced post-traumatic stress disorder, you may be eligible for compensation. A licensed psychiatrist or psychologist must diagnose your PTSD, and you must prove that your employment caused the mental injury. 

Even though most work-related mental injuries are challenging to prove in the Minnesota legal system, working with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer will help improve your likelihood of receiving benefits.

Are You Eligible for Compensation?

If you believe your work environment caused any mental injuries discussed in this article, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The first step is to meet with a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist to receive a confirmed diagnosis. If you get diagnosed with a psychological injury, the next step is to contact Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law and set up a free consultation. Our skilled lawyers will work with you and help you receive the compensation you deserve. 

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.