Physical injuries caused by a workplace accident are among the most common type of workers’ compensation cases. Chronic pain and repetitive stress injuries are more complex and challenging. Then, there are psychological disabilities. These are the most difficult workers’ comp cases of all.
What is a Psychological Disability?
It is sometimes referred to as psychological trauma or a psychiatric injury. Whatever you want to call it, it is a mental disorder of any kind that is caused—at least in part—by the workplace. There may be an incident or violent altercation with a fellow co-worker that leads to trauma. It could be a result of ongoing psychological abuse at the workplace.
Workers’ Compensation Claim Requirements
Typically, psychological disabilities must meet the following requirements to be eligible for any type of workers’ compensation:
- Must have worked for the employer for at least six (6) months (employment does not have to be continuous and the six-month minimum does not apply if it was a sudden and extraordinary event)
- The work environment, job activities or a specific incident must account for greater than 50% of the psychiatric injury (in the event of a violent act, only 35-40% must be shown to have been caused by work)
- The psychological disability cannot be a consequence of a physical injury (in this instance, workers’ comp benefits received for a physical injury may cover psychological treatment)
Determining the Extent of a Psychiatric Injury
As you can see, psychological disability workers’ compensation cases are very tricky to navigate, especially when the damage is done over time compared to one traumatic incident. Psychiatric injuries are evaluated in California by using the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Third Edition, Revised). California law also separates psychological disabilities into two different assessments. First is determining whether or not there is a psychiatric injury. Second is determining the amount of the psychological permanent disability as it pertains to your ability to work.
Poor performance reviews and reprimands cannot be used to file a psychological disability workers’ compensation claim. Those are covered as “good faith personnel actions” and a natural part of any job. Many other factors will be taken under consideration to prove that the mental disorder was caused by a workplace incident or compounded by the job over time.
The Benefits of Hiring a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
It is extremely important that you hire a workers’ compensation attorney to help you through the process of filing a claim as a result of a psychological disability. This is especially true if a family member has suffered such a psychiatric injury and is unable to properly represent themselves. You want to make sure each step of the claim process is done correctly, from the psychological evaluations and psychiatric diagnoses to filing all the necessary documentation with your claim. Then, you can expect a battle with your employer and their insurance company, who will do everything they can disprove your claim of psychological trauma. These types of workers’ comp cases are complex and contentious, so having the right legal representation will make all the difference.
Thomas F. Martin is a leading Orange County workers’ compensation lawyer who specializes in workers’ comp cases. You can trust him and his team to guide you through the claim process and fight for your best interests. Contact Thomas today to learn more about how he can help you get the workers’ comp benefits you deserve.