Many jobs cause a considerable amount of stress for employees. In some cases, the job may cause workers to develop mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which can be debilitating. These workers may wonder whether they can draw workers’ compensation benefits for their work-related mental health conditions if these conditions make them unable to work temporarily or even permanently.
Restrictions on Workers’ Compensation for Mental Health Conditions
State law places restrictions on the ability of workers to draw workers’ compensation benefits if they are unable to work due to mental health conditions. Generally, suppose you develop a mental disorder due to workplace stress or the pressure of performing your workplace duties. In that case, you are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you cannot work due to that disorder.
Under 85A O.S.§ 13, a mental illness or injury is not compensable unless caused by a physical injury to the employee. The development of a mental health condition is also not considered an injury arising out of and in the course and scope of employment unless the employee can demonstrate otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence. However, this limitation does not apply to victims of violent crimes.
Furthermore, a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist must diagnose the mental injury or illness. Finally, it must meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria to be compensable.
Limitations on Benefits for Mental Health Conditions
State law also places limitations on the length of time that a worker in this situation can receive workers’ compensation benefits for a mental health condition. For example, when a workers’ compensation claim is based on a mental illness or injury, the employee may draw a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. However, the employee may draw up to 52 weeks of benefits if they show clear and convincing evidence that they should continue to receive the benefits for a set period.
Finally, suppose death results directly from the mental illness or injury within one year. In that case, the employee’s dependents will receive compensation as they would in any other workers’ compensation case involving death. However, if the death directly or indirectly related to the mental illness or injury occurs more than one year from the incident, it is not compensable.
When a Physical Injury Accompanies a Mental Health Condition
However, you may be able to collect workers’ compensation for your mental health condition or emotional injury if it results from a physical work-related injury. In other words, the mental health condition must have an accompanying physical injury. For instance, the following situations might result in you qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits:
- You suffer a horrific accident at work and develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the accident.
- You are severely injured in the workplace and cannot work for an extended period. In addition, you develop severe depression due to your injury.
- You are the victim of extreme bullying, harassment, or a violent crime by a fellow employee while working that injures you not only physically but also causes you to develop extreme anxiety.
You also should remember that your physical injury doesn’t necessarily have to be as severe or long-lasting as the accompanying mental health condition. For example, if an angry client attacked you and caused you minor injuries, those injuries may not prevent you from working. However, if that incident causes you to develop an anxiety disorder that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Call Us Today and Learn How We Can Help
Since your eligibility for workers’ compensation for a mental health condition can be highly fact-sensitive, you should not automatically assume that you are ineligible for benefits. In some cases, you may qualify to draw workers’ compensation benefits for your emotional injuries.
The attorneys and staff of Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C., are here to assist you with your workers’ compensation claims and related legal needs. We have the experience and knowledge that can be invaluable in handling your workers’ compensation claim. To find out more about the legal services that we can offer you, contact us today at (918) 582-2500 or visit us online for more information.