Evaluating Workplace Mental Stress Injuries

March 23, 2019

Although mental stress injuries are more difficult to prove than physical work injuries, they may still be compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). There are three types of injuries for which a worker may obtain compensation: physical/mental, mental/physical, and mental/mental. The Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. know what it takes to file a successful claim for all three types of work-related mental stress injuries.

Physical/Mental Standard

This standard requires workers to prove that their mental injury was caused by a work-related physical injury. The law regarding what constitutes a physical stimulus is quite lenient; the physical injury does not have to be severe, nor does it need to cause a worker to miss work. As long as a physical stimulus caused the psychological injury, a worker may qualify for workers’ compensation under the physical/mental standard. Workers’ compensation benefits may be available to cover the cost of both the physical injury and the resulting mental stress injury.

Mental/Physical Standard

Chronic stress has been linked to numerous illnesses, including cancer, coronary heart disease, and respiratory disorders. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress is the underlying cause of 75 percent of all doctors’ visits. Workers who develop a physical illness due to a work-related mental injury may be able to collect workers’ compensation under the mental/physical standard. To qualify, the worker must:

  • sustain a physical injury that continues even after the psychological stimulus is removed; and
  • suffer a disability or loss of earning power due to their physical condition, not the psychological stimulus.

Mental/Mental Standard

This is the most difficult standard on which to prevail in a mental stress injury claim. Workers must prove that their mental injury was caused by a work-related psychological stimulus. The psychological stimulus must either be:

  • a single, traumatic event or series of extraordinary events that occurred at work; or
  • abnormal working conditions that persisted for an extended period of time.

What constitutes “extraordinary events” and “abnormal working conditions” depends on the circumstances of each case. However, Pennsylvania courts have clarified that illegal activity, such as being robbed or sexually assaulted, is an abnormal working condition that warrants compensation.

Determining compensability for employees who belong to inherently dangerous professions such as police officers and firefighters can be complicated. Because first responders and other emergency personnel are exposed to traumatic events on a regular basis, those events may not be considered extraordinary or abnormal for the job.

Mental/mental claims are frequently denied by employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies. Therefore, those who are considering pursuing a mental/mental claim should seek the counsel of an experienced attorney in their local area.

Reading Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Obtain Compensation for Mental Stress Injuries

If you suffered a work-related mental stress injury due to a traumatic event or abnormal working environment, contact a Reading workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.CMental stress injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be compensable under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.

We handle all types of work injury claims in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum Lynne, DarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssington, FolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion StationMorton, Narberth, Norristown, NorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect Park, QuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.