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Injured at work and depressed or anxious?

  • Dave Brown, Esquire
  • 06/08/2020

Work injuries not only can have devastating effects on workers’ bodies – they can also wreak havoc on their minds.

Suppose you are unfortunate enough to injure yourself at work – your neck, your back, your knee, or any other body part – and cannot perform your job.  If the insurance company denies your claim – which happens all too often – and you have to hire a lawyer (hopefully Pearson Koutcher Law) to fight your claim, you will suffer financially while your case is litigated before a Workers’ Compensation Judge.  Regardless of whether your claim is accepted or denied, undoubtedly, as a result of your injury, you will experience pain on a regular basis, which will require you to take medication and undergo treatment.  In addition to preventing you from doing your job, imagine you are not able to perform all of your day-to-day activities.   You may not be able to handle ordinary household chores such as cleaning and shopping.  Depending upon the extent of your injury, getting dressed may require the assistance of a family member.  Recreational activities which you enjoyed, such as jogging and dancing, may not be doable because of your injury.

Circumstances like these will have a profound effect on your life and could cause you to suffer from a psychological condition – depression if you’re sad and lacking energy; anxiety if you are nervous and “stressed out” about the uncertainty regarding your injury and your future.

If your depression and/or anxiety are serious enough, you may need to see a psychologist (who relies primarily on talk therapy; they cannot prescribe medication) or a psychiatrist (they are medical doctors who can prescribe medication to treat your depression and anxiety).  These bills can be submitted to the workers’ comp. insurance company, which will probably deny payment.  Your lawyer — Pearson Koutcher Law if you hire us – will file a petition which will be heard by the judge.  You will testify before the judge about how your work injury has affected your mental condition and required you to seek treatment.  Your doctor will do a deposition on your behalf, describing the conditions he or she has diagnosed you with, and how those diagnoses are a direct result of your work injury.  The insurance company will have you evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist who will likely state (because that’s what they usually say) that you don’t suffer from depression or anxiety; or if you do, it has nothing to do with your work injury.  The judge will then determinate whether or not your psychological condition is related to your work injury.

We want to caution you that under some scenarios, the insurance company will not be required to pay for mental health treatment that you undergo.  For example, if you are under a lot of stress at your job because your boss is demanding, and you are expected to produce a high volume of work, and you go to a mental health professional for therapy or medication, this will almost certainly not be covered by workers’ comp.  The law in Pennsylvania is clear that  everyday stress is considered normal in the workplace; unless an employee is subjected to abnormal work conditions – robbed at gunpoint or subjected to a sexual assault – they will not be able to prevail on a claim for a psychological injury.  So if your employer reopens its doors after being closed due to the pandemic, and you are anxious that are you going to contact COVID-19, while we are sympathetic to your concerns, workers’ comp. will not cover this claim because that is a normal fear.  It may be a different story if you actually contract the coronavirus and miss work and require treatment as a result.  If you can establish that you suffer from the disease due to exposure at work, you well may have a viable workers’ comp. claim.

The point we are emphasizing is that’s much simpler to establish your claim to a psychological injury if your physical injury occurs first, and the effects of that injury cause you to become depressed or anxious.

We’re here to help at Pearson Koutcher Law if you injure yourself at work and need a workers’ comp. lawyer on your side.  Whether or not you are suffering from a psychological condition on top of your physical injury, it is important that you have a seasoned workers’ comp. lawyer with expertise in this area of the law to represent you and fight the insurance company.