Psychological Injuries at Work
Florida’s workers’ compensation system provides medical care and partial job loss replacement benefits to those who are injured on the job. Many of our clients suffer physical injuries in an accident such as a fire, explosion, or fall.
But what about psychological injuries? These can be just as disabling as back injuries or fractures. Many workers are unable to return to work because of a psychological condition and need workers’ compensation benefits to support themselves. Florida has complicated rules regarding when a worker can receive compensation for this type of injury, and our Delray Beach workplace accident lawyer takes a closer look.
General Rule: Physical Injury Required
Fla. Stat. 440.093 lays out the general rule in our state: No benefits can be paid to a worker for a psychological injury without an “an accompanying physical injury requiring medical treatment.” This means that if you were merely frightened or scared by an explosion, you cannot receive benefits unless you suffered a physical injury in some way. And your physical injury must have been serious enough to require medical treatment.
Physical Injury Must Cause the Emotional Distress
Some accidents cause a physical injury, but the worker experiences emotional distress whenever they relive the accident. The law states that a worker can only receive compensation for mental and nervous injuries when it is the physical injury itself that is the “major contributing cause” of the distress.
Under the law, the physical injury must be at least 50% responsible for the emotional distress when considering all factors.
Clear and Convincing Medical Evidence is Required
Florida wants solid proof that you truly have a psychological condition, and the law requires that a “licensed psychiatrist” provide clear and convincing evidence that you meet the criteria for a mental disorder as established in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This means that workers must have something more than general negative feelings or feel “in a funk.” Your attorney should help you find a qualified psychiatrist to meet with if you cannot find someone on your own.
Time Limit on Benefits
If you have a compensable mental injury, you can only receive temporary disability benefits for six months after you reach maximum medical improvement for your physical injury. For example, Michael’s back injury might heal on January 1, 2021. However, he still suffers from crippling depression as a result of the injury. Although his mental injury qualifies for benefits, he can only receive them until July 1, 2021, or six months after his physical injury healed.
PTSD & First Responders
There is an exception to the general rule requiring physical injury. First responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if they develop PTSD on the job. Under the law, it is considered a compensable occupational disease if certain criteria are met.
For example, a police officer might respond to a school shooting and be so traumatized by seeing young people die that he develops PTSD and cannot work. If a licensed psychiatrist diagnoses him with PTSD, he should qualify for benefits.
Contact a Workplace Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation
The workers’ compensation system has many hurdles that can trip up the unwary. For help receiving benefits, contact Earnhart Law today, 561-265-2220.