Can I receive workers’ comp benefits in Georgia for a mental injury?

In the ongoing series where I discuss injuries that may or may not be covered by workers’ compensation benefits, so far I’ve discussed burn injuries and slip and fall injuries. Among the injuries listed on our firm’s website are psychiatric and psychological injuries, and I’ll address those today.

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Most people equate on the job injuries with the physical, but psychological and/or psychiatric injuries occur as well. While it’s almost always impossible to see them, their effects a worker are every bit as valid and real. Under workers’ compensation laws, In order to be eligible for compensation, a worker must sustain an injury that both arises out of and occurs in the course of employment.

There are myriad psychological and psychiatric disorders that could be workplace-related. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression are just a few of the most common. With regard to workers’ comp, there are three traditional categories of mental disability cases: physical-mental, mental-physical, and mental-mental:

Physical-mental refers to a case that involves a physical injury that leads to a psychological problem. For instance, a worker gets injured on the job. As months or weeks progress, he is not showing any great improvement and starts to get discouraged. Discouragement turns to severe, life-altering depression. The physical injury, then, gave rise to a mental one.

Mental-physical deals with cases where an emotional stimulus causes physical reaction and disability. Let’s say an employee has a job in a facility that requires him to repair elevators. In the course of working on an elevator one day, a cable snaps and sends the car hurtling downward, and the employee has a near-death experience but comes out physically unharmed. He finds himself unable to go near an elevator ever again without having a severe panic attack, which of course hampers him from doing his job as an elevator repairman.  In this case, a mental injury caused a physical one.  Georgia courts are unlikely to recognize this as a workers’ comp injury, as the physical injury did not precipitate the mental injury.

Mental-mental cases are those in which mental stimulus (most often repetitive) causes a psychological injury. These are also called ‘pure stress’ claims. This kind of injury may arise from bullying at work, for instance. Mental-mental cases are typically the least recognized and compensated, although courts in some states are coming around and recognizing them as valid claims. Currently, Georgia does not allow workers’ compensation benefits for this type of psychological injury, either.

Mental injuries are debilitating, just as physical ones are; they require time for healing and treatment by capable healthcare professionals. Both of these can be provided by workers’ compensation benefits. Whether your mental injury arose from an experience (such as robbery or assault) or a long-term physical debilitation stemming from a job injury, you will probably need the help of an experienced Georgia attorney when seeking compensation.

If you are a Georgia worker suffering from a psychological or psychiatric injury, contact our Atlanta offices for compassionate counsel who will advise you on your type of case and assist you in getting the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to under the law.

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