Imagine for a moment that you are at work doing your job as you always do when suddenly something goes terribly wrong and you are seriously injured. In addition to your serious physical injuries, you experience serious emotional harm as well. PTSD.
In these situations, it's not uncommon for workers to also need medical care for psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The accident that landed you in the hospital may play over and over in your mind, resulting in anxiety, loss of sleep, depression and a myriad of other conditions and fears. In such a circumstance, your anxiety may force you out of work temporarily or permanently, even requiring regular visits to a psychiatrist for medication and therapy.
Considering the immense emotional and financial burden PTSD can create, it's no wonder some workers ask the question... Can I collect workers' compensation for PTSD? Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as you'd think.
Is the injury compensable by law?
According to Georgia workers' compensation law, an injured worker may collect workers' compensation benefits for a psychological injury only if the injury is also connected to a physical injury.
If we consider the scenario above, you might be able to make a case for collecting workers' compensation for your PTSD because you were also physically injured in the workplace accident. It's important to understand, however, that this will not be the only test of whether your claim for benefits has merit or not.
Considering Georgia case law
When presenting evidence to support your claim for benefits, in cases of PTSD and other psychological injuries, a clear connection between an injury and a person's mental condition must be made and proven by a medical professional.
A determination regarding benefits is typically based on how the court have ruled in other cases, including the Georgia Supreme Court case Southwire Co. v. George and the Georgia Court of Appeals case Dekalb County Board of Education v. Singleton. In these two cases, the employees were entitled to benefits for their psychological injuries. The Singleton Court held the physical injury did not have to be the precipitating cause of the psychic trauma for PTSD to be compensable. PTSD was held to be compensable because the physical injury contributed to the continuation of the psychic trauma. In other words, if your work-related physical injury causes or worsens your anxiety or depression, you are entitled to benefits for the mental health injury.
Seeking legal counsel may be necessary
As you can imagine, psychological injuries such as PTSD can be difficult to prove and can create disputes between injured workers and insurers. As such, a worker should seek help from experienced legal counsel to prove their claim and to begin receiving much needed benefits.