Lieberman, Ryan & Forrest, L.L.C.
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Hunterdon County

The pitfalls of PTSD and workers' compensation benefits

Most people know that if they suffer an injury during the course of work, they become eligible for workers' compensation benefits that are provided through their employer's insurance company. These benefits typically cover the medical expenses associated with the injury as well as a large portion of the worker's wages that were lost because of time away from their job due to their injury.

When most people think of a work-related injury, they typically imagine a physical trauma that is easily diagnosed and addressed with medical treatments. Unfortunately, not all traumas can be seen. Take for example post-traumatic stress disorder, which causes a person to feel anxious during specific situations. Though this condition exists in a person's head, it is just as real as a physical injury. But is it covered by workers' compensation benefits?

The answer to this question depends on the event that triggered the PTSD to develop. According to case law, specifically Williams v. Western Electric Co., the worker must be able to show that their condition "bear[s] some essential relation to [their] work or its nature." This means that simply suffering an injury while on the job is not enough to seek workers' compensation; the worker must prove their condition is linked to the job they do.

This specificity in case law, and inevitably in New Jersey law, can create barriers for injured employees who are left unable to work because of their condition. Though a worker may believe that they are owed compensation, their employer and their employer's insurance company may disagree, which can lead to a denied claim for benefits and potentially creating a situation that could lead to litigation later on.

Source: The New Jersey Department of Labor, "Compilation of New Jersey Workers' Compensation Appellate Decisions with Comment for the Judge of Compensation," Accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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