In the realm of workers’ compensation, the focus is predominantly on physical injuries or illnesses sustained in the workplace. However, as society’s understanding of mental health deepens, a crucial concern is whether workers’ compensation will also cover Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Fortunately, California workers can file for workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD as long as the work-related incident they experienced was at least 51% responsible for their condition.
PTSD can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event. In the workplace, this can include incidents such as severe accidents, violence, sexual harassment or assault, bullying, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other high-stress or shocking experiences.
Recent years have witnessed a paradigm shift in recognizing mental health conditions, particularly PTSD, as a legitimate occupational hazard. Professions like first responders, military personnel, and healthcare workers, who routinely encounter traumatic situations, are at heightened risk for developing PTSD. The profound impact of this condition on an individual’s mental well-being and job performance cannot be overstated.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include:
Victims may also experience anxiety, depression, and other conditions that compound it.
California law recognizes that mental health conditions, including PTSD, can result from work-related conditions or incidents. However, there are specific criteria that must be met for a PTSD claim to be valid:
The event that led to the PTSD must be work-related. It could be a single traumatic incident or a series of events over time.
The work-related event must be at least 51% responsible for causing your PTSD. This means that you must be able to demonstrate a clear link between the event and the development of the condition.
A diagnosis of PTSD from a licensed medical professional is crucial. This provides the necessary medical evidence to support the claim.
First responders such as firefighters, police officers, healthcare workers, or public safety agency dispatchers do not have to cite specific on-the-job incidents or experiences to file a claim for PTSD. California passed legislation allowing the presumption that a first responder’s PTSD is related to their employment if they are filing a claim.
If you wish to file a workers’ compensation claim for your PTSD, consider taking the following steps to help support your case:
Report any incidents that contributed to your PTSD to your employer as soon as possible. This helps establish a documented timeline.
Consult a mental health professional who can diagnose and document your PTSD. Their notes and records are crucial for your claim.
Write down the incidents or situations at work that you believe contributed to your PTSD. Include dates, times, locations, and any individuals involved.
Familiarize yourself with your workplace’s policies regarding traumatic incidents and mental health. This can help you understand if there were any breaches that contributed to your condition.
If there were witnesses to any of the traumatic events that took place at work, try to get statements from them. Their accounts can provide additional evidence for your claim.
Keep records of all medical appointments and medications related to your PTSD. This can serve as evidence of the impact on your health and your need for treatment.
Consider speaking with a trusted Orange County workers’ compensation lawyer with experience in mental health cases. They can provide legal advice and help you navigate the process.
Your attorney may obtain expert opinions from mental health professionals or medical experts who can attest to the work-related nature of your PTSD.
Work with your attorney to file a formal workers’ compensation claim within applicable deadlines.
Be prepared to undergo evaluations as part of the workers’ compensation process. These may be conducted by independent medical examiners.
In California, you have the right to appeal a denied workers’ compensation claim. You must file an Application for Adjudication of Claim with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) to initiate the formal legal process. If your appeal moves forward, be prepared to present your case at a hearing. This may involve providing testimony and presenting additional evidence to support your claim. In some cases, resolving the dispute through mediation or settlement discussions may be possible. Your Orange County employment attorney can advise you on the best approach.
In workers’ compensation claims related to PTSD, the following types of compensation may be available to help cover expenses and support you as you recover:
An attorney can provide specific guidance on the types of compensation you can recover based on your individual circumstances.
If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD related to an incident in the workplace, a trusted attorney can help. They will ensure you receive the compensation and support you are entitled to.