PTSD and Workers’ Compensation

The way our society is acknowledging and addressing mental health issues has drastically changed over the past few decades.  Disorders that were previously downplayed or even outright rejected are now receiving the attending they require, helping many people address their problems and get better.  In some situations, the mental health issues may actually stem from the employee’s job.  Some jobs are high intensity and dangerous, exposing the employees to risk and trauma on a daily basis.  The unfortunately result is that many employees will then develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Although most people associate PTSD with military service, thousands of civilians suffer from PTSD that they developed through their employment.

In California, PTSD can be covered by workers’ compensation.  The claim can be a standalone claim for only PTSD, or it could be in conjunction with another work related physical or mental injury.  In addition to military members, those who are typically at high risk of developing PTSD as a work related injury would be those who are exposed to dangerous or tragic work environments, such as firefighters, police officers, social workers, or EMTs.  They can develop PTSD after a singular incident, or as the result of repeated exposure to stressful and traumatic situations.

Like any other workplace injury, a claim for workers’ compensation based on PTSD will start when the employee files a claim with the employer. There are strict deadlines as to when an employee can file for benefits after becoming aware of the injury.  In this case, the timeline would likely start from when the employee receives a diagnosis of PTSD from a medical professional or counselor.

California Labor Code 3208.3 provides that if an employee’s injury is a result of being “a victim of a violent act or from direct exposure to a significant violent act, the employee shall be required to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were a substantial cause (35-40 percent) of the injury.”  It is important to note that a medical diagnosis will be required to satisfy the section of the labor code.  The definition of key terms such as “victim,” “direct exposure,” and “significant violent act” is the subject of extensive litigation, and can be a nuanced argument for an attorney to make.

If you have questions about the workers’ compensation system, let us answer them. Contact us for a consultation to talk about your business.

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