At Saffren and Weinberg, Marc Alan Weinberg, Attorney and Kenneth Scott Saffren, Attorney are partners. The firm’s tagline is “The People’s Voice In Court.” They make themselves available via phone at (215) 576-0100 or by email on the Saffren and Weinberg website. Saffren and Weinberg provides a no-charge, complimentary case review and answers questions for prospective clients.

 

Am I Eligible to Receive Workers’ Compensation for Job Stress?

We have all felt stressed at work at some point or another. No matter what job you have, there are always varying levels of stress, and each person handles that stress differently. Stress is a natural reaction we all experience, and often we accept work stress as part of life. However, that stress can sometimes lead to mental distress which can cause emotional breakdowns and potentially physical ailments.

If your job stress is so excessive that it affects your ability to function at work or even outside of work, it’s time to do something about it. If you believe your stress is caused by the conditions at your work, you may have a workers’ compensation claim.

What are your Workers’ Compensation Rights?

Some typical workers’ compensation claims include physical stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome due to typing or a chronic back injury due to repetitive heavy lifting. In these examples, an employee performed a work activity repetitively over a period of time and, as a result, suffered a physical problem. However, it’s not as simple when you are dealing with emotional stress injuries, and knowing your rights is important.

If you suffer an accident or injury at work, it is considered a workers’ compensation injury. Under the workers’ compensation system, workers are entitled to a portion of their average earnings while out of work receiving treatment due to an injury. In most states, you must file an incident report to your supervisor and/or to your company’s insurance carrier in a timely manner to start the workers’ compensation claims process, and to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Typically your employer will have you visit a physician of their choosing to determine whether your injury or condition was caused by your job duties. Since this exam is ordered by your employer, there may be some concern that it’s an impartial process, benefiting the employer. If your employer or their insurance company asks you to see a physician they have chosen, you may want to contact an attorney before you see the physician.

If you are approved for <workers’ compensation benefits, the benefits may include weekly compensation, payment of your medical treatment, and partial or total impairment benefits.

Inform your Employer

The first step you must make if you feel you are suffering from stress at work is to tell your supervisor about it in detail. Most employers have policies on how you should report a potential workers’ compensation claim. Make sure you follow those rules and make a formal report. This report will become part of your employment record and will help ensure your rights are protected.

Keep notes of your own, including any dates and times of any incidents that happen. Describe who was present, what was said, and how the situation was handled. Be as specific as you can in your notes, as details will sometimes fade in your mind after a short time. If you have needed counseling, medications, or other psychological or medical treatment for work-related stress, be sure to keep notes on all treatments you’ve received. 

It may also be advisable to discuss this with a co-worker you can trust. Also, ask them to make notes about anything they personally observe in case you need a witness in the future. 

Proof can be Difficult

Stress-related workers’ compensation claims aren’t as easy to prove as typical workers’ compensation claims, such as a laceration or a broken arm that occurred on the job site. Stress-related claims are typically psychological in nature. And, if they are physical in nature, such as migraines or stomach issues, it’s hard to prove the physical symptoms are caused by work stress.

As with any other workers’ compensation claims, you must prove your work-related stress, which caused you to seek medical or psychological assistance, was job-related. Workers’ compensation regulations vary from state to state, so check with a workers’ compensation attorney to discuss the validity of your claim, and to determine if your state’s law allows you to make a workers’ compensation claim due to stress-related injuries. In some states, you may just have to prove that work stress or work conditions were the predominant cause of your condition. Other states have more stringent requirements and may make it close to impossible to win a stress-related workers’ compensation claim.

Situations where stress is caused by non-discriminatory, legal personnel actions such as getting written up for poor performance, or a negative performance review, typically do not qualify as work-related stress. However, situations with a hostile work environment or an abusive supervisor may qualify. Work-related stress that forces an employee to take time off from work or leaves you unable to perform certain tasks, such as concentrating at work or communicating with others, often qualify for workers’ compensation. If an employee has a mental breakdown due to being worked to the point of exhaustion, or the employee is subject to cruel treatment or threats at work, he or she may have a claim.  

Due to the nature of the claims, work stress claims typically require a higher standard of proof before it is approved. Work-stress claims are often vague and can easily be denied based on a lack of evidence that the stress is directly related to work. You will need to prove that there was an above normal stress level for that position and that medical experts can eliminate other potential causes that could have contributed to the psychological condition. 

Most stress-related workers’ compensation cases do not involve permanency awards.  They Typically, they have temporary wage replacement and medical costs are covered. In order to be awarded permanency for workers’ compensation, it must be established that the work stress caused a permanent condition whereby the employee lost the use or function of a body part either completely or in part. In the case of a psychological injury or loss, the ability to prove a permanent disability is incredibly difficult. 

As the employee, you have the burden of proof. This may include providing medical history, records of any financial issues, and any personal or family issues that have occurred due to the work-related stress. Most states require that the employee must have been employed for at least six months, unless the work-related stress was due to an extraordinary employment condition (such as a bank teller being robbed at gunpoint).

For More Information

If you feel you have a work stress-related workers’ compensation claim, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Stress claims are incredibly difficult to win, so working with an attorney familiar with these types of claims is cardinal. Please contact Saffren & Weinberg at 215-576-0100 to speak with an attorney today.

 

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Kenneth Scott Saffren / About the author

Ken Saffren, Esq, is a partner of Saffren & Weinberg located in Jenkintown, PA, practicing in workers’ compensation, social security, and personal injury litigation. He is a member of both the United States District Court of New Jersey and Eastern District of Pennsylvania Supreme Court, as well as PHN Epsilon Roe.

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