Once upon a time, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was regarded as a military ailment suffered by shell-shocked veterans. Since 9/11, the courts have recognized that severe and debilitating stress can be experienced by an employee during the course of their work, making them eligible for workers’ compensation.
In most cases, PTSD symptoms manifest within three months of the triggering event, although there have been cases where they began years later. While some people recover in less than six months, others struggle with the condition for much longer. Symptoms include:
- Repeatedly reliving the trauma via flashbacks, nightmares, and hallucinations
- Depression, anxiety, and self-blame
- Avoiding people, places, and situations that bring the trauma to mind
- Volatile emotions, such as angry outbursts and irritability
- Problems falling or staying asleep
- Physical problems such as nausea, high blood pressure, and diarrhea
PTSD claims are categorized as mental claims because no physical injury is typically involved. Although they account for a small percentage of all workers’ compensation applications, they are on the rise. Workplace stress, which includes PTSD, costs the U.S. economy over $300 billion per year.
PTSD claims in New York
In New York State, stress-related claims are compensable, but only if the stressors are unusual for the average person doing the claimant’s job. The basic policy is that if the injury resulted from an accident that occurred in the course of employment, the claim should be allowed.
It is important to point out that a psychological injury arising from legally approved actions by the employer is not compensable if the action was done in good faith. Examples of such events include:
- Negative performance reviews
- Demotion or transfer
During one notable case that received substantial media coverage, a supermarket manager called a female employee at home to let her know that her hours were being reduced due to poor sales. The woman’s husband showed up at the supermarket and threatened him before beginning a campaign of harassment that included pouring sugar in the manager’s gas tank and paying someone to attack him. In 2014 the New York Supreme Court affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Board ruling that he was entitled to workers’ compensation after PTSD left him unable to work.
In 2017 the New York State Senate approved reforms to the workers’ compensation law that allowed first responders such as police officers, paramedics, and firefighters to claim mental injury based on extreme work-related stress. At one time such claims were rejected because these jobs were deemed stressful in scope, but now a worker can seek benefits if exposed to a trauma that would be considered intense by anyone else employed in the same field.
If a traumatic event has left you unable to work, then consulting a New York personal injury attorney can help you evaluate the strength of a workers’ compensation claim and obtain the representation needed to win the benefits you are entitled to. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx personal injury lawyer with over 34 years of legal experience. If you were injured on the job, then call Mr. Lutzky’s office at 718-329-9500. Initial in-person consultations are free and home and hospital visits are available in the case of serious injury.