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Workers' Compensation & Mental Illness

Workers' Compensation & Mental Illness

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the most common workplace injuries involve falls, falling objects, electrocution, and accidents with heavy machinery. But what OSHA does not typically consider is the effects a physical injury can have on the mind and emotions of the injured individual. As our understanding of psychology expands year over year, it is becoming more and more apparent that mental illness and emotional trauma can be just as debilitating as physical harm, if not more so.

Can I Get Workers’ Comp for a Mental Illness?

Most states’ workers’ compensation programs do not explicitly exclude mental illnesses from eligibility for benefits. If a mental disability is truly disabling, it can make regular work duties difficult or impossible, especially if the mental illness originates from the workplace. A few examples of extremely stressful occupations that could lead to the development of a mental health problems include police officers, firefighters, and paramedics.

The trouble of mental illness workers’ compensation cases is convincing an employer and their insurer that the mental illness is indeed debilitating. There is still an overarching societal idea that the cure to many mental illnesses is just “keeping your chin up” and “staying positive.” This does no justice to the real struggles people with mental and emotional traumas must deal with on a daily basis.

In order to file a “stress claim” or mental illness claim, generally four conditions must be met first:

  1. The petitioner must have been diagnosed by a medical or psychiatric professional with the conclusion that they do have a medical or mental health condition that needs treatment.
  2. The petitioner must have held their current occupational title for at least half a year; this varies from case-to-case.
  3. It must be proven that the petitioner’s regular responsibilities at the workplace caused or significantly contributed to their mental illness.
  4. Any cited mental illness cannot be caused by acceptable disciplinary actions taken by the petitioner’s employer, such as receiving a reprimanding warning for poor work performance.

The odds seem to be stacked against an employee seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a mental illness, mainly due to the fact that they cannot simply point at a physical injury to show its existence. If you need help filing for workers’ compensation based on a mental stress injury, or if your first filing was denied and you don’t know what to do next, Michael J. Doyle, Attorney at Law can help. Our Albuquerque workers’ compensation lawyer has more than a decade of proven legal experience. Discover what we can do for you by calling 505.219.2176 or contacting us online.


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