workers comp and mental health

Does Workers’ Comp Cover Mental Health?

If you work in a demanding, fast-paced workplace or one that requires ongoing interaction with the public, there’s a chance that your work takes a toll on your mental health. The risk is even greater for those who work in life-or-death situations, including EMTs, firefighters, and police officers. This raises questions about the role of workers’ compensation in mental health crises. As an employee, can you receive workers’ comp benefits if your workplace has damaged your mental health?

Workplace injuries are a serious problem in many industries, and you may find it difficult to get the compensation you deserve. That’s where we come in. Discuss your claim with Thiry & Caddell by giving us a call at 251-478-8880.

Challenges of Mental Health Claims

As you may know, proving mental health issues is difficult. This is one of the reasons that many workers’ comp insurance companies either don’t cover mental health diagnoses or make employees jump a variety of hurdles before they receive benefits. Physical health concerns can typically be proven through conclusive diagnostic testing, such as an X-ray, MRI, or CAT scan. However, mental health diagnoses generally rely on self-assessment and self-reporting.

Insurance companies may worry that a non-injured employee could go to the doctor and report depression symptoms simply to get out of work. This belief is unfair to those who suffer from mental health concerns, but it is prevalent in the workplace and the insurance industry.

On top of that, there are legal barriers in place that prevent workers with mental health issues from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Under Alabama law, mental injuries are only covered by workers’ compensation if the mental health symptoms are linked to a physical injury.

Symptoms Linked to Physical Injuries

What does this mean for you? Imagine you get held up at gunpoint as a cashier in a gas station. The robber thinks you’re taking too long to give them the cash you asked for and they shoot you in the leg. The pain of your leg injury and the long road to recovery leaves you with depression and anxiety. In this scenario, workers’ compensation could payout for your mental injuries.

Imagine a similar scenario, but in this one, you give the robber the money and they leave without causing you any physical injury. You are left with PTSD and an anxiety disorder. You don’t sleep at night and can barely function at work because you can’t stop reliving the trauma of the robbery. In this case, your mental health concerns are not linked to a physical injury, and workers’ compensation would not pay out for your mental injuries.

An Important Distinction

It’s crucial to understand the difference between mental injuries linked to physical injuries and mental injuries linked to traumatic events that also left physical injuries. Let’s use the example given above with the gunshot wound to the leg. Workers’ compensation pays out for your mental injuries while your leg is healing.

Eventually, you heal completely and return to life as normal. However, your mental health issues continue, and you experience flashbacks of the robbery, as well as anxiety about it happening again. At that point, the mental injuries are no longer linked to the physical injuries, since the physical injuries are gone. Once the mental injuries are tied to only the traumatic event and not the physical injuries that came from it, workers’ compensation might stop paying benefits.

What to Do If Work Has Harmed Your Mental Health

This legal distinction is a confusing one, and if you’re unsure about whether or not your injury will be covered, it’s a good time to talk to a workers’ compensation attorney. Once we get the details of your injury and how it has impacted your life, we can further explain your options and help you create a plan.

Choose Thiry & Caddell for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

Time is of the essence when you experience a workplace injury. If you wait too long to seek benefits, you risk losing evidence that proves your injury. Let us help you get the benefits you deserve and navigate this challenging time. To talk to our team, call us at 251-478-8880 or get in touch with us online. We look forward to helping you.

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