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Are Psychological Conditions Covered by Workers' Compensation?

Posted by Christine Foster on March 4, 2015

Find out if you could file a workers’ compensation claim for your mental illness.

Are Psychological Conditions Covered by Workers' Compensation?

Find out if you could file a workers' compensation claim for your mental illness.

Are you suffering from a work-related mental illness or psychological condition? Mental health workers' compensation claims make up a tiny percentage of all workers' compensation claims. Workers' compensation can help you cover current and ongoing medical costs, damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.

When someone has an accident at work and sustains a physical injury, it is usually compensable. However, psychological conditions are a bit trickier to assess. You may be able to obtain workers' compensation benefits for mental illness as long as you're able to prove that the condition was directly the result of a physical work injury or non-routine stressful event in the workplace. You may also qualify to receive psychological treatment as part of your workers' compensation benefits if an emotional injury interferes with your recovery from a physical workplace injury. 

Types of Mental Health Conditions Covered by Workers' Compensation

You typically have a better chance of being compensated for psychological or psychiatric conditions stemming from a physical accident at work or an illness caused by your work. For example, a worker may develop a traumatic physical injury at work and then suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.

Unlike with physical conditions, medical evidence of objective findings regarding mental health conditions isn't required. While the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) relies on the subjective complaints of an injured worker to assess his psychological condition, it's also important that the healthcare provider thoroughly document his or her diagnosis of the worker's mental illness.

During the psychological evaluation of an injured worker, a mental health examiner must determine if there is a mental health injury present and whether it is attributable to events that occurred in the workplace. A mental health examiner must consider a variety of contributing factors when assessing a worker's mental illness and its cause. Some types of mental health impairments that workers' compensation benefits may cover in Washington State include the following:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Severe phobias
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Memory loss
  • Dementia or severe confusion

Workers' compensation claims for mental stress are only allowed in Washington State if the stress resulted from a single, traumatic event. For instance, if someone witnesses his or her co-worker suffer a horrific workplace accident and that results in mental stress, the worker could file a workers' compensation claim. Washington State law excludes mental health conditions or disabilities that are caused by stress from coverage as occupational diseases.

Permanent Partial Disabilities Resulting from Psychological Conditions

You will be able to return to your job after recovering from your mental health condition as soon as your healthcare provider releases you for work. If your attending physician determines that your medical condition is fixed and stable and no further curative treatment will be needed, you will be entitled to a rating of permanent impairment for conditions resulting from a workplace injury. Permanent partial disability awards are paid when injured workers will remain impaired as a result of their injury.

Permanent partial disability awards are based on the degree of damage you suffer. Mental health impairments are considered unspecified disabilities. Your rating will be conducted by your attending physician or by independent medical examiners. They will perform the rating based on established medical standards and guidelines.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with a Seattle Workers' Compensation Attorney

Workers' compensation cases involving emotional injury or mental illness are often challenging and controversial. It's difficult to prove the existence of a mental health condition and determine that it was caused by a workplace incident.

If you need to file a workers' compensation claim for mental illness, it's best to hire a workers' compensation attorney in Seattle to represent you. Foster Law, P.C. has a wealth of experience handling workers' compensation claims for mental health impairments. Please call 206-682-3436 or contact us online to set up a FREE consultation. 

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