Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Psychiatric Care?
Written by Shawn Diederich on January 25, 2017
Physical injuries are easy to assess for purposes of workers’ compensation. For example, if you break your leg in a workplace accident, your employer is generally liable for your medical bills and lost wages. But what if your injury is mental or psychiatric rather than physical?
When Are Mental or Nervous Injuries Covered?
Unfortunately, it is more difficult for an employee to receive benefits for these types of injuries. Florida law declares that a “mental or nervous injury due to stress, fright, or excitement,” is not considered a workplace injury subject to workers’ compensation. However, an employee may seek compensation for a mental injury where there is “an accompanying physical injury requiring medical treatment.”
This means the mental injury must be the result of the physical injury, not the other way around. If a mental injury leads to a physical injury, the employer does not have to pay workers’ compensation benefits. In a 2010 case, a Florida appeals court offered a helpful example: If “an employee becomes stressed or nervous about something occurring at work and the stress or nervousness causes the employee to suffer a heart attack,” the employer is not liable for workers’ compensation.
A common type of workplace injury is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While many PTSD cases do not involve a physical injury, those that do may justify awarding workers’ compensation benefits. In another Florida court decision, this one from 2014, an employee claimed she suffered from PTSD arising from an armed robbery at her store during work hours. The employee suffered a “minor” physical injury to her right knee during the attack. The court said that might be enough to justify workers’ compensation benefits for the employee’s PTSD as well since it could be a “manifestation of a compensable physical injury.”
Proving a Mental Injury in the Workplace
But keep in mind, it is not enough for an employee to say she suffers from PTSD or some other mental injury following a physical accident. Florida law requires “clear and convincing medical evidence” of any mental or nervous injury. This means workers’ compensation officials will need to receive testimony from a “licensed psychiatrist” applying the criteria for mental disorders listed in the DSM-5, the official diagnostic manual for the American Psychiatric Association.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident and find yourself feeling a higher than normal level of stress or anxiety afterward, you should seek immediate psychiatric care. In order to preserve a potential workers’ compensation claim, you should keep detailed records of any treatment you receive. Your employer and their insurance company will likely challenge any benefits claimed based on a mental injury, so it is essential you have as much as evidence as possible.
Contact an Experienced Orlando Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
You should also work with an experienced Orlando workers’ compensation lawyer who understands how to assist employees who suffer from PTSD or similar conditions. Contact the Diederich Law Firm, P.A., to schedule a consultation with a qualified attorney right away.