Am I Eligible to Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Anxiety or Stress?October 22, 2020
Workers’ Compensation benefits are available for employees who have been injured on the job. Although physical injuries caused by falls, overexertion, and contact with objects and equipment are among the most common Workers’ Compensation claims, employees may also be able to collect benefits for injuries or illnesses that are caused by stress. These claims may be more difficult to prove because every job is associated with a certain degree of stress. In fact, some workers, including fire fighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians, are expected to be able to handle a high level of work-related stress. However, if the stress level exceeds the normal level that is to be expected, it can lead to emotional, mental, and even physical impairments. If the worker can prove that the stress-related condition is directly related to their job, they may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
One of the reasons why stress-related disorders are difficult to prove is that there may not be an obvious connection between the disorder and the worker’s job. Stress can come from many aspects of a person’s life, including family matters, finances, health, and other issues. For a worker to be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, they must be able to establish a clear connection between the stress-related disorder and the high-stress conditions at work.
However, even if the employee can demonstrate that their work conditions are extremely stressful, they may not be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. For example, if a police officer suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing another officer getting shot, he may not be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits because it is understood that police officers are often exposed to potentially violent and dangerous situations. However, if a receptionist in an office building suffers from PTSD after witnessing a disgruntled employee shoot his former boss, she may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
What are the Physical Symptoms of Workplace Stress?
In addition to feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed out, stress can cause a range of physical symptoms. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress can cause workers to experience the following:
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Migraine headaches
- Elevated heart rate
- Cardiovascular issues
- Increased risk for heart disease
- Exacerbation of preexisting conditions such as asthma or chronic pulmonary disease
How Do I Prove that Stress is Work-Related?
If an employee is suffering from extreme stress that is directly related to their job, they will need to file a Workers’ Compensation claim under one of the following three types of psychological injuries:
- Physical-mental injury: This is a mental injury that occurs as a result of a physical event. For example, if a worker loses a finger after an accident involving a piece of equipment, using that equipment again may cause extreme fear and anxiety, making it difficult for the employee to perform his or her job.
- Mental-physical injury: This occurs when mental distress causes physical injuries. For example, if a worker is under extreme pressure to do their job correctly and is under constant fear of losing their job, the stress and anxiety can cause a range of physical symptoms, including severe migraines, ulcers, and heart conditions.
- Mental-mental injury: This is a mental injury that can occur as a result of psychological trauma experienced in the workplace. For example, if an employee is traumatized after a violent incident at work, resulting in severe anxiety or depression, he or she may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation. Not all states recognize mental-mental injuries as eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, but Maryland does recognize such injuries as eligible.
Examples of Psychiatric Injuries in the Workplace
Common causes of stress and anxiety-related injuries in the workplace include the following:
- Harassment and bullying: Workers can suffer stress and anxiety if they are harassed or bullied by a supervisor or a co-worker. This type of behavior can take several forms, including verbal, social, physical, or psychological abuse. Sexual harassment also falls under this category and is a serious problem, particularly if it is committed by a supervisor, employer, or someone who is in a position of power. Oftentimes, employees hesitate to report these actions out of fear that they will lose their job. As a result, they often suffer in silence. This can have a serious impact on the worker’s mental health.
- Difficult or dangerous customers: When workers are threatened or verbally abused by rude or irate customers, it can be extremely stressful, particularly if the customer becomes violent. Depending on the situation, even after the customer has left, the stress from the interaction can affect the worker long afterward. Repeated interactions with difficult, rude, and aggressive customers can have an impact on an employee’s mental health.
- Shift work: Shift workers often experience work-related stress because of the nature of their job, which tends to include long hours, not enough sleep, and chronic fatigue. In addition to lack of sleep, shift workers often experience lower levels of job satisfaction compared with other workers as a result of the psychological and physical stress associated with their job, and the fact that they are often working when friends and family members are getting together for important events. The long hours also disrupt their normal circadian rhythms.
- Workload: This is another cause of work-related stress. Oftentimes, workers are expected to take on additional responsibilities because of downsizing, economic pressures, or unfilled vacancies. For most workers, these conditions are manageable if it is on a short-term basis. However, when unreasonable workloads continue for an extended period, they can lead to the following mental health issues:
– Insomnia and other sleep-related issues
– Poor job performance
- Job insecurity: Studies show that job insecurity causes more stress, anxiety, and physical health issues compared with being unemployed. Unfortunately, real job security is a thing of the past, as restructuring and downsizing have left many workers feeling stressed and worried about their job status. Workers who are laid off or terminated face the mounting stress of being unable to pay their bills, including their mortgage, rent, health care, food, and other daily expenses.
How can I Prove that a Stress Disorder is Work-Related?
In order to secure compensation for a stress disorder, the worker must be able to prove that there was an abnormal amount of stress in the workplace. There are a number of actions that the worker can take, including the following:
- File a formal report. This will be an important document to include when filing a Workers’ Compensation claim. The employee must follow the company rules about filing this type of report.
- Talk to co-workers. Discuss the stressful work conditions with other workers. If co-workers are experiencing similar conditions, the employee should take notes about their observations and include this information as evidence.
- Seek medical attention from a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist. Documented medical evidence from a skilled professional will provide key evidence when filing a Workers’ Compensation claim. He or she will be able to offer their professional opinion about how the stressful work environment contributed to the employee’s stress disorder.
- Record moments of stress that cause physical symptoms. If work-related stress causes the employee to lose sleep, have panic attacks, or have suicidal thoughts, he or she is urged to take detailed notes and keep track of how often this happens.
- Keep a journal. Workers who experience bullying or harassment at work should keep a detailed account of when, where, and how often the co-worker or supervisor engaged in this type of behavior. The employee should include dates and times, what the employee said, and how the co-worker or supervisor responded. It is important to include as much detail as possible.
What Benefits am I Eligible to Receive for a Work-Related Stress Disorder?
Workers who are suffering from stress, anxiety, and other types of psychological injuries may qualify for the same benefits as workers who suffered a serious physical injury. If the employee’s claim is approved, he or she will be eligible for the following benefits:
- Medical expenses, including doctor’s appointments, prescription medication, and the cost of transportation to therapy appointments if necessary.
- Lost wages if the employee is unable to go to work as a result of the stress disorder.
- Vocational training if the employee cannot return to the same job.
- If the employee’s health care provider says that he or she can return to work with certain restrictions, but the new job does not pay as much, Workers’ Compensation will provide a percentage of the difference between the two positions.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Work-Related Stress Disorders
If you are suffering from extreme stress as a result of an unhealthy, toxic work environment, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We understand the impact that stress can have on a person’s health and well-being. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.