When A Workplace Injury Is Psychological Rather Than Physical
When one thinks of workplace injuries, the most common ones to come to mind are car and truck accidents, falls, and accidents related to lifting or moving objects. Such physical injuries are, however, not the only ones compensable under California Workers’ Compensation laws. California law allows compensation for both physical and mental stress, including physical conditions with psychological origins, and vice versa. We have all experienced the effects of stress; when it builds, stress can both break down the body’s immune system and hamper the mind’s ability to function, thereby diminishing the ability to work. Stress can even build to the point that it causes or aggravates a mental disorder. Here, depression and anxiety can inhibit one’s ability to work and necessitate medical care. Even when stress doesn’t build over time – when it’s the result of a one-time traumatic workplace event – the psychological aftershocks can impact both job performance and quality of life outside work.
Physical Workplace Injuries May Cause Psychological Injuries
Sometimes a workplace injury is so traumatic that it causes psychological aftershocks. Depression, anxiety, mood fluctuations, loss of sleep, and nightmares are all manifestations of psychological trauma. These symptoms compound the physical injuries resulting from a workplace accident, and can have every bit as much an impact on one’s ability to return to work, as well as bearing on one’s happiness and quality of life outside the workplace.
The Threshold For Bringing A Successful Psychological Workers’ Compensation Claim
One difference in physical and psychological workers’ compensation claims in California is the threshold of proof. Under the state’s labor code, an employee seeking compensation for a psychological injury caused by work must have been employed by the employer for at least six months prior to the injury. In addition, the employee must have obtained an official diagnosis of a mental disorder responsible for the disability or a need for treatment. This diagnosis must detail the employee’s personal background, including developmental history, the existence of any personal problems, job satisfaction, and performance reviews. Third, an employee seeking compensation must prove that work-related events during the course of employment were the actual cause of the disability. The actual cause component can be complex, as it requires proof that actual events of employment were more than 50% responsible for the psychiatric injury suffered. Multiple causes can be at play, so long as work-related cause is the predominant one. To demonstrate predominance, depositions containing coworkers’ statements and interviews with family members, as well as psychological testing data, will be essential. These threshold requirements are more stringent than those imposed on a strictly physical workers’ compensation claim, and the burden of proof is on the employee. Thus, in seeking the compensation you deserve for your work-related psychological injury, you will benefit greatly from experienced of a skilled California workers’ compensation attorney.