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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Workers’ Compensation

Under the Workers’ Compensation Act an employee suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can recover compensation for the psychic injury. When determining compensation for a psychological injury, the Court has created three classifications, upon which PTSD could be categorized under the “physical/mental” injury or the “mental/mental” injury classifications.

A “physical/mental” injury is a psychic injury resulting from a physical stimulus. In Workers’ Compensation, to recover under this classification, the employee must demonstrate that the psychic injury arose during the course and scope of his/her employment and was related to such employment and a corresponding physical injury.

A “mental/mental” injury is a psychic injury caused by a psychological stimulus. There are two ways of proving a “mental/mental” injury. The first method is by showing that an extraordinary work event caused the resulting psychic injury. Under this method, the employee must be able to pinpoint the exact moment in time that the trauma occurred. The second method requires proof of an abnormal working condition that over time has caused the psychic injury. Under this method, the Court takes into consideration the normal working conditions within an employee’s field. Therefore, employees in more stressful environments will have a more difficult time proving an abnormal working condition as it may be construed to be a subjective reaction to a normal working condition. To be considered an abnormal working condition, an employee must demonstrate that the condition is unusually stressful within that field. These types of cases are highly fact specific and changes in conditions – such as increased workload – are not enough to constitute abnormal working conditions. The Court takes into consideration the training provided by the individual’s employer on such occurrence, the frequency of the occurrence, and the expectation of such occurrence happening. When considering these conditions, employees in even the most stressful of jobs have the opportunity to recover for work related PTSD.

An employee can also recover for an aggravation of a pre-existing diagnosis of PTSD. The burden of proof required to prove an aggravation would be the same as proving a new diagnosis. If the case were a “physical/mental injury”, the employee would be required to show how a physical stimulus at work caused the psychic injury. If the case where a “mental/mental” injury, the employee would have to establish the injury under one of the two courses of action listed above.

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD as a result of a work condition, contact a skilled Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney with Rudberg Law Offices, LLC. Call us at 412.488.6000 or contact us at [email protected].