Request A Free Consultation
Sunset on a pier in Orange County

Psychiatric Work Injuries

September 12, 2023 Legal Team

Psychiatric work injuries are a critical but often overlooked aspect of workplace safety. While physical injuries are more immediately apparent, the impact of psychiatric injuries can be just as severe, if not more so.

Psychiatric Work Injuries

What are Psychiatric Work Injuries?

Psychiatric work injuries encompass a range of mental health conditions that arise due to the workplace environment. These include anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological conditions. These injuries are not always sudden and can develop over time due to chronic workplace stress or traumatic incidents.

Compensation Options for a Psychiatric Work Injury

In California, workers who suffer psychiatric injuries as a result of their jobs are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Medical Benefits

These benefits cover related medical expenses, including therapy, counseling, and medication.

Temporary Disability

Additionally, workers’ comp provides temporary disability benefits to pay for partial wages for the time an employee is unable to work due to the psychiatric injury.

Permanent Disability

If a psychiatric injury results in a permanent impairment, a qualified medical evaluator (QME) may assign a disability rating. This rating is a percentage that indicates the level of permanent impairment. Permanent disability benefits are provided based on this rating, and they are meant to compensate the worker for the lasting effects of the psychiatric injury.

Retraining and Vocational Rehabilitation

If a psychiatric injury prevents a worker from returning to their previous job, California’s workers’ compensation system provides options for retraining or vocational rehabilitation.

This may include financial assistance for job training, education, or skill development to help the injured worker transition into a new role.

Potential Third-Party Claims

In certain situations, a third party (not the employer) may be responsible for the psychiatric injury. For instance, if the worker was injured or witnessed an accident caused by a defective product, a separate legal claim against the responsible party, such as the manufacturer, may be pursued for compensation in addition to workers’ comp.

Proving a Psychiatric Work Injury

An employee must seek out psychiatric help and receive a diagnosis to qualify for benefits as well as meet the following qualifications:

  • You must have worked for your employer for at least six months
  • The illness must be listed in the most recent version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Stress alone is not considered a psychiatric condition.
  • There must be a clear link between the workplace conditions and the resulting mental health condition that proves your employment was at least 51% responsible for the development of your psychiatric injury.

Keeping records of incidents, seeking medical attention, and reporting the issue to supervisors are crucial steps in building a case. Additionally, any communication, such as emails or messages, that can support the claim should be preserved.

What To Do if You Believe You Have a Psychiatric Work Injury

Take the following steps to pursue workers’ compensation benefits for a psychiatric work injury:

  • Report the incidents that led to your psychiatric injury to your employer as soon as possible. There are specific time limits for reporting workplace injuries.
  • Seek medical treatment as soon as you begin exhibiting symptoms from a healthcare provider authorized by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
  • Gather as much documentation as possible related to the work incident or conditions responsible for your psychiatric injury, any communication with your employer, and any medical treatment you receive. If there were any witnesses to the incident or ongoing stressful conditions at work, ask them for statements detailing what they observed.
  • File a workers’ compensation claim with your employer’s insurance carrier.
  • Continue to follow your recommended treatment plan prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Speak to an Orange County workers’ compensation attorney can be invaluable. They will help gather the required evidence, ensure that all necessary steps are taken to file a successful claim and that you recover the compensation you deserve.