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Stress-Related Workplace Injuries

When we thing of workers’ compensation, we often think of physical injuries. However, mental injuries, such as stress, can also lead to temporary or permanent disability for which workers’ compensation benefits are appropriate.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the law allows a worker to recover for mental or emotional disabilities only where the predominant contributing cause of such disability is an event or series of events occurring within employment.

In other words, an employee who suffers serious mental or emotional disability, including stress, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be able to recover workers’ compensation for these conditions if certain requirements are met. The most important requirement is that the mental condition must be the result of a serious stressful condition that occurred at work and was the actual cause of the injury or illness.

This can include suffering a serious personal injury, being sexually assaulted, or experiencing another type of serious event that lends itself to suffering from a stress disorder. A worker cannot generally recover due to a high level of stress normally associated with a particular job. For example, iron workers routinely walk on narrow beams high above the ground. There is no doubt this would cause an ordinary person stress, but this is not the type of emotional or mental disability for which Massachusetts workers’ compensation law provides benefits.

As our Boston on-the-job injury injuries at the Law Office of Jeffery S. Glassman, LLC can explain, a worker’s pre-existing medical condition will also be relevant when determining if an injured employee is entitled to benefits for work-related stress or other emotional disability. If a worker has a long history of mental illness, and the incident at work was only one factor in the mental illness and not the primary contributing factor, the worker may not be entitled to benefits.

One of the best things a worker can do to maximize the chances for obtaining a full and appropriate financial recovery is to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as early in the process as possible. With an emotional injury claim, you are likely to get a lot of resistance from your employer when attempting to obtain benefits. The employer may also require you to be examined by a doctor they have provided, and this doctor will likely have the opinion you are not emotional disabled due to a work-related event.

Having an attorney on your side to fight for your rights from the beginning of the process will allow you greater control and increase the likelihood you will receive benefits. Another helpful thing you can do is keep a journal of the stressful events that occur at work, so you can say with a reasonable degree of certainty exactly what happened and when it happened. You will also have a record of how these events affected your mental state and how it contributed toward your disability.

Even if your employer is on your side, his or her workers’ compensation insurance company may deny your claim, because they are often more concerned with their financial wellbeing than your emotional wellbeing. Having an experienced work injury attorney at your side will often make the difference in achieving fair remedy.

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