When you hear the words “workplace injury” and “worker’s compensation,” what comes to mind? You may think of someone who got hurt on the job due to faulty equipment, or who slipped on a slick area and hit their head, or who became seriously ill due to toxins or chemicals. What may not come immediately to mind are mental injuries, which can be just as common but are much less talked about.
Job related-stress is a normal part of every worker’s life. Stress caused by completing a task with a tight deadline or being nervous about a presentation is normal and usually handled easily. But excessive stress can negatively impact a person’s performance and productivity as well as social life, health, and emotions. When workplace stress leads to extreme depression, anxiety, or PTSD, is it still covered by worker’s compensation?
The dedicated team of workplace injury attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. has looked into this issue to provide our community with the necessary information to make informed decisions. In this article, we look at what PTSD is, whether it is covered by worker’s compensation, and how individuals can get the compensation they deserve.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or series of events, or is under extreme duress for an extended period. Individuals with PTSD may experience emotionally or physically harmful or life-threatening effects on their mental, physical, social, and spiritual wellbeing.
Traumatic events that cause PTSD include:
- Serious accidents
- Terrorist acts/attacks
- Rape/sexual assault
- Historical trauma
- Intimate partner violence
- Extreme cases of bullying
Can Work Stress Cause PTSD?
Yes. Workplace PTSD is often characterized by the different emotional, cognitive, and physical challenges that individuals experience when they have difficulty coping with the negative, abusive, or traumatic aspects of their jobs.
While you may assume that work-related PTSD only happens when someone goes through a traumatic event at work, such as an accident, this isn’t always the case. People constantly berated by their supervisors in front of coworkers or who are forced to be responsive at all hours of the day, even on days off, can also suffer from PTSD. This applies as well to those who are constantly asked to perform tasks they haven’t been trained for, especially when that training is required to keep them safe.
What Are the Symptoms of Work-Related PTSD?
Work-related PTSD can have the following symptoms, but the severity of the symptoms varies from person to person. Here’s what to look out for:
Intrusive thoughts: Repeated thoughts or memories, recurrent distressing dreams, or flashbacks of a particularly traumatic event are all considered intrusive thoughts. In severe cases, the flashbacks or dreams may be so vivid that the individual feels they are reliving the event, causing physical symptoms such as a racing heart or sweating.
Avoidance of places or people: Individuals suffering from work-related PTSD may begin avoiding areas or people that remind them of the traumatic event. This can also include avoiding activities they previously enjoyed or refusing to touch objects.
Changes in cognition, behavior, or mood: Individuals suffering from PTSD may not be able to remember important aspects of their life. They may also suffer from extremely negative thoughts and feelings about themselves or situations, leading to ongoing distorted beliefs that can cause trust issues or severe depression or anxiety. They may also blame themselves for the inciting events or any negative ones following and lose interest in activities that they previously enjoyed or pull away from family and friends.
Changes in arousal or reactivity: Individuals suffering from work-related PTSD may become more reactive, becoming irritable or having angry outbursts over non-serious situations. They may become self-destructive, putting themselves in harm’s way or engaging in risky behaviors. In other cases, they may become paranoid, watching their surroundings or other people closely, as if suspecting something bad will happen at any moment. They may be startled easily or have a hard time concentrating or going to sleep.
Does Worker’s Compensation Cover Work-Related PTSD?
Texas’s worker’s compensation laws are pretty clear when it comes to work-related PTSD. Before an employee can file a claim seeking compensation for PTSD, they are required by law to see a psychologist or psychiatrist to get properly diagnosed. Without this, their claim for worker’s compensation may be denied. Any diagnosis they receive must meet the standards for PTSD as set by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Once they receive a diagnosis, that individual may file worker’s compensation to recover damages and medical expenses caused by PTSD. These expenses can include lost wages, medications or therapy, and even disability compensation.
Qualifying for this kind of worker’s compensation benefit is extremely difficult as there’s usually no physical proof of injury. Worker’s compensation fraud specialists may investigate to determine the legitimacy of a claim, adding to the stress and making it difficult for a person suffering from workplace PTSD to get the compensation they deserve.
A Workplace Injury Attorney Can Help
If the above description of workplace PTSD sounds like something you are going through, don’t lose hope. A workplace injury attorney, such as the team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C., can help ensure that your voice is heard and that you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for more information on our workplace injury attorney services or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with one of our caring attorneys. We don’t back down from a challenge and we will fight for you.