Stress, Mental Injuries, and Workers’ Compensation

Many studies and surveys have confirmed that work-related pressures are the leading source of stress for the American population, and they are on the rise. At least one-fourth of all employees view their jobs as the primary stressor in their lives, and issues at work are more strongly associated with health complaints even more so than financial or family issues.

Job-related stress is typically defined as harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when a job has requirements that do not meet the abilities or needs of the worker. This does not meet the mere existence of a challenge, but rather, whether challenges have turned into demands that cannot be met and thus the job circumstances have laid the groundwork for illness and injury. What happens when stress turns into something more serious? There is documentation of work-related stress issues turning into serious mental disorders, heart problems, depression, etc.

Psychological Injuries

According to Pennsylvania law, there are three types of psychological injuries that may be addressed under the Workers’ Compensation Act:

  • mental/physical: where a work-related mental stimulus results in a disabling physical injury;
  • physical/mental: where a work-related physical stimulus results in a disabling mental or psychic injury; and
  • mental/mental: where a work-related mental stimulus results in a disabling mental or psychic injury. This category carries a higher burden of proof upon the claimant re: proving that the mental stimulus causing the disability was the result of “abnormal” working conditions.

Abnormal Working Conditions

For the first two categories, claims related to general workplace stress are not typically covered by these scenarios, but rather, serious physical conditions that later give rise to a psychologically debilitating condition. The additional requirement of proving the existence of abnormal working conditions has traditionally made this last category (mental/mental) the most difficult to receive compensation under. Whether this condition exists has been highly dependent on the facts of each particular case, where deference is given to the determination made by the workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) as the fact-finder.

Some examples of when courts have found abnormal working conditions have included the existence of a pre-existing mental disorder that was exacerbated on the job, an extraordinary event that takes place during a work shift, the facts surrounding the specific incident that gave rise to the psychological injury, etc.

Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

If you or anyone you know has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation. The best way to ensure that you have the proper evidence of an actual psychological injury is to hire an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney to help navigate the process. At Solnick & Associates, LLC, we will work to ensure that the proper factual framework is established to allow you to address any mental health claims associated with job stress. Contact us at our Jenkintown office today and let us help you receive compensation for your injuries.