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Can I Receive Workers’ Comp for PTSD?

We hear a lot about military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD for short) when they return home after getting wounded or witnessing war atrocities. PTSD can also be triggered after an unpleasant event at work, and the person who is subjected to this event may be able to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits.

The general rule in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law is if someone injures themself at work and cannot do their job, they are entitled to Workers’ Comp. benefits — money for lost wages and payment of medical bills. So if you injure your knee, back, or shoulder at work and are disabled, you’re entitled to Workers’ Comp. benefits.

It’s not that simple if a doctor diagnoses you with PTSD or another psychological condition, such as depression or anxiety, as a result of something that occurred at work. You will have to establish that you were exposed to “abnormal working conditions,” which caused your condition, in order to have a compensable Workers’ Comp. claim.

We don’t wish this upon you but imagine that you’re working as a bank teller and a man who you think is a customer flashes a gun and demands all the money in your till. Trembling, you comply, and the man hustles out of the bank. You are so upset about being held up that you leave work and go straight to your primary care doctor, who gives you medication for your severe anxiety. You stay out of work for a week but then try to return. However, the image of the gun pointing at you is so disturbing that you can’t do your job. You go out on medical leave and start to see a psychiatrist who diagnoses you with PTSD because you are so traumatized by the robbery, and also recommends that you not return to your bank teller job. If You file a claim for Workers’ Comp. benefits, you should be awarded benefits because you were subjected to abnormal working conditions (while bank holdups occur occasionally, they are not “normal”) and suffered PTSD as a result.

You would also have a viable claim if a client or co-worker assaults you after what you thought was a minor disagreement. The bruises on your face go away in a couple of weeks, but your anxiety does not, and you are diagnosed with PTSD. An assault is also an abnormal working condition.

However, your chances for a successful workers’ claim are not good if you feel “stressed out” at work because you have a demanding supervisor who puts a lot of pressure on you every day. You develop anxiety which worsens with each passing week to the point that your primary care doctor prescribes Ativan and takes you out of work. Under these circumstances, it is unlikely that you will be able to collect Workers’ Comp. benefits because the law is clear that a difficult boss who puts a lot of pressure on his or her employees does not rise to the level of abnormal working conditions because it is so common in the workplace.

So if you’re struggling with a mental condition — PTSD or any other disorder — which you think was caused by your job, please contact Pearson Koutcher Law for a free and comprehensive consultation with one of our top lawyers.

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