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What Is Considered a Psychiatric Work Injury in California? 2024

When a worker is physically injured on the job, it is typically easy to see the injury or diagnose an illness that has identifiable symptoms that can be confirmed via medical tests. However, when a work-related injury is a mental or psychiatric illness, it is oftentimes harder to prove and, thus, harder to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. In many cases, employees with psychiatric illnesses filing a workers’ comp claim must turn to a workers’ comp attorney to complete their case.

The need for legal representation is even greater now that laws have tightened up on eligibility requirements for psychiatric injury compensation. For instance, employees must be employed at their job for at least six months to even be eligible to apply unless the injury was the result of an extraordinarily sudden event that occurred during employment. In addition, workers’ compensation cases involving work-related psychiatric injuries can lead to expensive litigation, costly evaluations, and treatment methods, but compensation can be significant if the worker can build a solid case.

What Causes Psychiatric Injury at Work?

Employees can suffer from psychiatric disorders, often called mental claims or stress claims, due to undergoing traumatic or overtly stressful work-related events or working extended schedules such as long consecutive hours or overtime. The worn-out worker rule may also apply to these situations, but one of the hardest parts, though, about proving these injuries is that stress affects everyone differently. Thus, a definitive set of symptoms to apply to a worker who is stressed from work is next to impossible because there are no set of symptoms and definitely not a set of symptoms that can be seen or tested with traditional medical tests such as X-rays or blood tests. This is the paradox of applying for workers’ compensation benefits for psychiatric injuries. As difficult as it may be, though, some claims for benefits do get accepted. They are mostly temporary disability benefits because it is even harder to prove permanent disability is necessary since once the worker is away from the job, it is assumed that the stress-related symptoms will subside.

What Happens When You File a Psychiatric Workers’ Comp Claim in CA?

When a worker reports a psychiatric workers’ compensation claim, the employer receives a letter notifying them of the claim along with information on how to promote a more stress-free workplace environment, as well as information on compensation for workplace psychiatric injuries. It explains that a wide range of mental disorders and disabilities that are caused by job-induced stress warrant compensation under state law.

What the Law Says About Psychiatric Injuries Caused in the Workplace

The law states that any workplace injury that is psychiatric in nature or is a mental disorder that causes a disability or a need for treatment and is diagnosable, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Meaning of Mental Disorders (DSM), is compensable. Furthermore, an employee must establish their psychiatric injury with evidence that demonstrates actual events of employment were at least 51% predominantly and substantially the cause of the injury. If the mental injury was caused by an event that was violent in nature, the causation threshold is only 35%. However, this is still a stark contrast to the 1% required proof of attribution to a job required for an injury that is physical in nature.

Why You Need a Worker’s Compensation Attorney for Your Work-Related Psychiatric Injury

During the time leading up to the trial, which is called discovery, the insurance provider will take every opportunity to find any kind of information possible on the claimant to try and prove other factors in the employee’s life contributed to the mental disorder more so than the job did. A qualified workers’ compensation lawyer can be an invaluable resource in combating these efforts of the insurance company by discrediting the evidence or counter-arguing the insurance company’s case. This level of legal skill is difficult to accomplish alone without an experienced attorney to act on your behalf.

While it is extremely difficult to prove a psychiatric injury was caused by a workplace environment, it is still possible to obtain workers’ compensation insurance benefits for such an injury under the California Labor Code Laws. Since state law also restricts an employee from suing an employer, a successful attempt at prevailing the California workers’ compensation insurance benefits system is the only option for obtaining restitution for psychiatric injuries that occur as a result of a work environment.

Due to the sensitivity of proving that a psychiatric illness or injury occurred as a result of workplace conditions or an event that happened over the course of employment, these cases must be approached with care and familiarity with the system. Hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer with prior experience proving psychiatric workplace injuries and having undergone successful cases is all but a necessity in obtaining benefits for a psychiatric work-related illness. It’s just too fragile of a situation to be taken lightly or entered into frivolously.

FAQs About What Is Considered a Psychiatric Work Injury in California

Can You Claim Workers’ Comp for Mental Health in California?

Yes, California recognizes psychiatric job-related injuries as compensable, but the law makes it rather difficult to secure workers’ comp benefits for mental illnesses incurred by a job environment. The injured worker must prove their job was a significant and direct cause of their mental illness. This is why a workers’ compensation injury lawyer is an imperative resource in securing benefits for these types of injuries.

What Is a Work-Related Mental Injury?

In California, a work-related mental injury is an illness or injury that occurs to an employee that is a result of the environment in which they work or the nature of their occupation, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, or another psychiatric injury.

What Is Mental Health Compensation?

Mental health compensation is workers’ comp benefits that pay employees a portion of their former salary after they have suffered a mental illness or injury at work that has limited their range of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional functioning, causing significant interference with their life and affecting how they think, feel, behave, and interact with others, especially in a workplace setting.

Is PTSD Covered Under Workers’ Compensation in California?

Yes, California law states a rebuttable presumption that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is compensable as a job-related psychiatric injury, particularly in first responders who suffer severe job-related trauma and resulting debilitating mental illness injuries that affect their professional and personal lives.

Obtaining workers’ compensation insurance benefits for a psychiatric work-related injury or illness necessitates the assistance of a workers’ comp attorney, perhaps more than any physical work-related injury. Contact Canlas Law Group to discuss your case with a legal professional who is well-versed in California workplace psychiatric injury laws. We can ultimately optimize your case and increase the odds of obtaining a more favorable outcome for you.

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