Workers’ Compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a serious mental health condition that can affect those who experience a shocking, scary, or dangerous event, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It can affect soldiers, tragedy survivors, injured workers, or anyone else who goes through a traumatic event.
Those who develop PTSD due to an event that occurred at work may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”). The experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. have successfully represented those who have sustained physical as well as mental injuries from work.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD symptoms vary, depending on both the nature of the traumatic event and the person who experienced it. According to the NIMH, someone must have had the following symptoms for at least one month to be officially diagnosed with PTSD:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom – Includes flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts that interfere with a person’s daily routine.
- At least one avoidance symptom – Such as avoiding places, things, thoughts, or feelings that remind the person of the traumatic event.
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms – Usually constant and not triggered by a single reminder, such as being on edge, suffering from insomnia, and displaying uncontrollable anger.
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms – Includes impaired memory, feelings of guilt or blame, and loss of interest in activities the person used to enjoy.
Workers’ Compensation Claims for PTSD in Pennsylvania
The laws regarding workers’ compensation vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, both physical and mental injuries are compensable under the Act. There are three standards for proving a mental injury workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania:
- Physical/Mental Standard – This requires injured workers to prove that their work-related physical injury caused their mental injury. The physical injury need not have been disabling or resulted in wage loss; rather, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (“the Appeal Board”) has clarified that the worker is only required to prove that the physical stimulus caused their psychological condition. Claimants have been able to recover workers’ compensation for PTSD even when they had minor physical injuries, such as contusions and muscle discomfort.
- Mental/Physical Standard – In these cases, claimants must prove that a work-related psychological stimulus caused their physical injury. The Appeal Board has explained that, in order to be compensable, the physical injury must both continue even after the psychological stimulus is removed, and result in disability or loss of earning power.
- Mental/Mental Standard – Claimants bear the heaviest burden when trying to prove that either a single psychologically traumatic event or a perpetually stressful working condition resulted in their mental condition. They must prove that the trauma was caused either by an extraordinary event or working under abnormal working conditions.
Payes v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board
In this case, the Appeal Board clarified what “abnormal working conditions” means for the purposes of a mental/mental case.
First, the psychological injury must be objectively verified, typically with expert testimony. Next, the psychological injury must be traced to an identifiable source, such as a person or event. Finally, the incident must have been abnormal for the job.
Firefighters, law enforcement, and other emergency personnel face traumatic situations that are abnormal for most people. However, they regularly encounter these situations as part of their job. Therefore, those types of events are not typically compensable. It must be shown that the triggering event was extraordinary and unusual for claimants belonging to inherently stressful or dangerous professions in order to recover workers’ compensation for PTSD caused by a workplace psychological trauma.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Obtain Compensation for PTSD
If you are suffering from PTSD caused by an event that occurred at work, contact a skilled Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. For over 40 years, our experienced lawyers have represented injured workers. PTSD workers’ compensation cases can be extremely complex, especially when proving the mental/mental standard. To discuss your case, please fill out our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.
We proudly represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.