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Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Mental Illness?

When we think of injuries sustained on the job, we tend not to think of psychiatric injuries, but rather physical ones, such as broken bones and head injuries. However, even psychiatric injuries can be covered by workers’ compensation under certain circumstances. California, unlike other states, covers psychiatric injuries within the workers’ compensation system. That said, employers and insurance companies are often skeptical of such injuries and frequently deny injured workers benefits for psychological conditions, including depression and anxiety. Given the complexities and difficulties that are often associated with such cases, it is crucial to hire skilled legal representation as soon as possible to ensure you are able to achieve the results you need and obtain the benefits you rightfully deserve.

Special Workers’ Compensation Requirements for Psychiatric Injuries

California treats claims involving psychiatric injuries differently than physical injuries given the lack of objective tests to detect and measure such experiences. Blood tests, x-rays, and other examinations can be performed to reveal physical injuries and illnesses, but psychiatric injuries are far more difficult for doctors to detect. Additionally, such conditions can have a variety of causes, including personal reasons that are unrelated to an employee’s work.

Therefore, to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for your psychiatric injury you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You have a mental disorder that was diagnosed under accepted procedures
  • Due to your mental disorder, you had the required medical treatment or experienced disability and were forced to miss work or were unable to perform some of your duties
  • You worked for your employer for at least six months or your psychiatric illness resulted from a sudden and extraordinary condition at work
  • You can prove that actual events of employment were the primary cause of your psychiatric injury

For the last requirement, this generally means that you must show that personal struggles in your life were not the main cause of your emotional or psychological condition. Of course, this means your personal life will be heavily scrutinized to dig for any other reasons that might have contributed to your mental illness.

Stress from Personnel Actions

Generally, claims can be denied if:

  • Your employer can prove that a good-faith and nondiscriminatory personnel action, such as legitimate criticism or the denial of a promotion, was responsible for your psychiatric injury
  • You filed your claim after you received notice that you were going to be laid off or fired, unless your injuries occurred as a result of sudden and extraordinary workplace events

Physical Injuries That Cause Psychiatric Injuries

In some cases, a physical injury can result in a psychiatric one as well. Under these circumstances, it is generally easier to prove that the mental or emotional condition you are suffering from is related to your job. For example, if you sustained a back injury at work and became depressed after you were forced to stay in bed for months, you will likely be able to prove that a work-related incident caused your psychiatric injury.

In order to receive any permanent disability benefits for psychiatric injuries that are a compensable consequence of your physical injuries you will need to prove:

  • You were the victim of a violent act in the workplace or exposed to substantial work-related violence
  • Your original physical injury was catastrophic, such as a spinal cord injury or a traumatic brain injury

Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in Sacramento

If you sustained a psychiatric injury while on the job, you could still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, it will require the skilled legal assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. At Smolich & Smolich in Sacramento, our team of workers’ compensation attorneys is dedicated to fighting on behalf of injured workers to ensure they are able to receive the benefits they rightfully deserve.

Get started on your case today and contact our law office at (888) 452-0703 to request your free initial case evaluation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys. You will not owe us any legal fees if we cannot win your case!

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