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Making a Claim for Work-Related Stress Injury

We often think of work-related injuries as being physical, but workplace injuries can also take an emotional toll. If you experience stress as the direct consequence of your job, can you file a worker’s compensation claim and collect benefits as a result? No one size-fits-all answer exists, but some basic principles may form the grounds for a viable worker’s compensation claim.

How Does Worker’s Compensation Work?

The worker’s compensation system is a no-fault one that provides benefits in exchange for injuries that a worker incurs throughout the course of performing work duties. As a no-fault system, a worker does not have to prove that an employer is at fault in order to collect benefits. In exchange, the employer cannot be personally liable for any damages the worker incurs.

Under a worker’s compensation insurance policy, workers can collect a portion of their average earnings, medical care, and disability benefits, if applicable. In order to be eligible for these benefits, you must make an incident report in a timely manner and start the claims process.

Filing a claim is not a guarantee of benefits. When filing a claim for something like work-related stress, some workers may face an uphill battle. A worker’s compensation attorney can help facilitate the claims process and improve the chances of an approval.

Stress-Related Injury Claims

In the digital age, more workers experience more stress than ever. It can be difficult to get away from the work environment with constant access to phones and work emails. As a result, more workers report mental health effects such as stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Emotional injuries are more difficult to prove and it may be harder to receive worker’s compensation benefits from them. However, in some cases it may be possible, particularly when a worker has a diagnosed psychiatric condition.

In order to collect worker’s compensation benefits for an emotional injury, a worker must be able to show that a psychiatric illness or injury prevents them from completing their work duties and that the work environment either caused or exacerbated it. Stress itself is not a condition listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-5), so a worker cannot collect benefits on stress alone. However, stress can exacerbate certain conditions such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. In some cases, a work-related physical injury can lead to the diagnosis of a psychiatric injury such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When stress on the job causes or worsens a psychiatric illness, then a worker may conceivably collect worker’s compensation benefits. However, due to the subjective nature of these claims, it is essential to have help from a worker’s compensation attorney.

Claims Using Personal Injury Laws

Texas is the only state in the nation that does not require employers to carry worker’s compensation insurance, though most do. If your employer does not offer worker’s compensation benefits and you experience psychiatric injury directly arising from your work duties, you may be able to file a claim outside of the worker’s compensation system. A personal injury claim requires that your attorney establish an employer’s negligence as the proximal cause of your injury. If you succeed, you may be able to collect compensation for medical bills, lost income, and intangible losses such as loss in life quality.

Making a claim for a stress-related injury, whether through the worker’s compensation system or civil justice system, can be difficult. Guidance from an attorney is essential; as he or she can review your legal options and help you pursue the course that is most likely to lead to compensation for your injuries.

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