WORKERS’ COMP COVERAGE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL INJURIES
Psychological injuries in the workers’ comp system generally fall into one of four categories. The most common is what is known as a “consequential” mental health issue. This occurs when the injured worker develops depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder or a similar issue as a result of pain, disability, and loss of income from a physical injury that happened on the job. Consequential psychological injuries are frequently included in the case and covered.
Another kind of psychological injury is when the worker is involved in a specific traumatic event. Depending on the nature of the event, how closely involved the worker was in it and the worker’s job, these types of claim are also frequently covered by workers’ compensation.
A more difficult situation is when a worker claims a psychological injury as the result of work-related stress. This type of claim is rarely successful unless the worker can make a compelling case that the work-related stress was truly extraordinary and that it was well above and beyond the kind of stress that is typical for their job. This legal rule sets up a standard where (bizarrely), the more stressful a person’s line of work is, the less likely they are to be successful in a claim for work-related psychological injury.
The fourth type of claim is when the worker has a psychological injury as the result of an employment action. The Workers’ Compensation Law specifically excludes coverage for “solely mental” injuries that are the result of a “good faith” employment action such as a transfer, demotion, termination, etc. It is obviously very difficult for a worker to succeed in this type of claim.