Do you work in a high-stress environment? If so, you’re probably well aware of the real, physical problems excessive stress can cause.
Stress and emotional distress you experience at work on a regular basis can impact your physical and mental health along with productivity, personal relationships and overall well-being.
Did you know that if you suffer from work-related stress that causes harm to you, your employer’s workers’ compensation policy may provide coverage? Here’s what you need to know.
Standard of Proof for Workers’ Compensation
In some cases, medical conditions related to mental health are covered by workers’ compensation, but you’ll need to prove that your work was the primary cause of the condition. Typically, proof involves demonstrating that abnormal working conditions contributed to your medical problem.
Injuries due to stress or emotional distress can be challenging to prove, and it’s more difficult to receive workers’ compensation benefits for mental as opposed to physical injuries or illnesses.
Not all states allow workers’ compensation to cover claims for emotional distress, and requirements vary across the country. This lack of coverage stems in part from the fact that the cause of mental illnesses can be difficult to prove.
In Florida, workers’ compensation claims for stress are allowed only if some sort of physical trauma accompanies the stress. If you’ve suffered a physical injury that clearly caused depression or other mental illness, you should be entitled to workers’ compensation coverage for any necessary treatments.
Under Florida law, a “mental or nervous injury” caused only by stress or excitement does not qualify as a work-related accident covered by workers’ compensation insurance. To receive benefits under workers’ comp in the state, a mental injury must be accompanied by a physical injury that requires medical treatment.
If you’ve suffered a mental injury resulting from a physical injury, you’ll have to prove the injury “by clear and convincing medical evidence” presented by a licensed psychiatrist. Proof must meet criteria in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual.
Your attorney will need to establish that the “compensable” physical injury was the primary cause of your mental condition, and it must be responsible for at least 50 percent of the mental condition when compared to any other causes.
Workers’ compensation does not cover psychological, emotional or mental injuries arising from depression caused by losing a job or caused by preexisting mental conditions. Mental conditions due to subjective physical issues — such as pain — that cannot be proven with medical evidence also are not covered.
Making a Claim Outside Workers’ Compensation
If your job is causing you extreme stress resulting in a related medical problem but you’re unable to take action through the state’s workers’ compensation system, you still may have other legal remedies. By working with an experienced personal injury lawyer, you may be able to sue for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress by your employer.
Through a personal injury claim, a court may award you damages including coverage of your medical expenses, time lost from work, and compensation for pain and suffering.
Documenting Emotional Stress at Work
If you’re experiencing egregious stress at work that’s causing you to suffer emotional distress or related mental illness, the first step in taking action is speaking to your superiors or your human resources department and submitting a formal report. By documenting your situation and the effects you’re experiencing, you begin to create a paper trail that will become a permanent part of your employer file.
In any later legal action — whether a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim — this documentation can help your attorney establish the cause of your problems.
Consult With a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
One of the most important steps you can take if you’re suffering negative effects from work-related stress or emotional distress is consulting with experienced workers’ comp attorneys. Claims based on emotional distress can be challenging in Florida, but working with a legal team experienced in workers’ compensation issues will give you the best chance of proving your case and receiving benefits.
To discuss your case, please contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.