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PTSD & workers’ comp law: Key insights

Woman with mental health challenge after PTSD from workers' compensation

Washington L&I has a history with what they referred to as “psych-only” claims, and there are still plenty of loopholes and hoops to get lost in if you have a mental health condition caused by your work. Generally, a specific, tangible occurrence resulting in post-traumatic stress without physical injury is allowed in an L&I claim. When the cause of work-related stress and anxiety occurs over time or without a sudden event, the law is less clear. However, there seems to be some movement in this area, as The Spokesman-Review highlights in this article

There are several facets here, and the inclusion of direct care nurses is very recent (passed in 2023) and has a couple of caveats. There has been a push to expand the psych-only claims coverage, which has been generally limited to firefighters, police, and 911 operators. This would be fantastic for specific groups like coroners and medical examiners, ER x-ray techs, surgical techs, and other hospital workers who constantly deal with highly stressful situations.

More attention to mental health and workers’ comp 

Washington State is something of a unicorn in its industrial insurance laws and regulations, so only some of what you read about other states may hold true here. However, this article shows that mental health and workers’ comp are getting more attention nationally and with good cause. 

An article in Forbes magazine illustrates how the workplace is changing for industries across the board and that stress and anxiety are running rampant in the workplace. 

That’s one of the reasons Washington L&I has introduced BHI or Behavioral Health Intervention. This is a program designed to allow injured workers access to mental health treatment without waiting for special referrals or diagnoses to be accepted on the claim before they’re able to speak to a mental health professional. 

If you feel like you’re stressed or anxious due to work, it’s no surprise. According to a report cited by the US Surgeon General, 84% of respondents polled in the U.S. said their workplace conditions had contributed to at least one mental health challenge. 

If you feel like you may be suicidal or harm yourself, get help right away by calling 911 – do not wait for an L&I claim allowance or anything else to happen first! 

Compensation for a workers’ comp injury-related PTSD

If you think you may be experiencing PTSD or anxiety after a sudden and traumatic workplace event, or if you are in an industry that covers “cumulative” mental health claims like police, firefighters, or EMTs, exploring your options with L&I may be appropriate.

Additionally, if you have an existing injury claim or physical occupational disease claim and the injury/condition itself has caused depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, you may be able to have those conditions added to your claim. Once added to a claim, you may receive treatment and potentially monetary compensation, depending on the severity and permanence of your conditions. Sometimes, the L&I process, combined with loss or reduction in income, health, and physical ability, and the persistence of pain can cause these conditions. 

How to apply for a workplace PTSD claim

New legislation aims to allow cumulative stress claims for those in first-responder professions, presuming that the anxiety or PTSD they experience is related to their employment.

If you feel like you need treatment, seek medical attention from a qualified professional who can diagnose PTSD, document the connection to the work event, and help you file a claim. You can also speak with an attorney about starting the process. We encourage you to read our blog post about how Chris helped a client recover after a life-changing truck accident. 

Know your rights: Hire a workers’ compensation lawyer

Getting compensation for work-related PTSD is complex, and specific processes and requirements vary depending on your state and individual circumstances. Seek legal advice from an experienced attorney to understand your rights and options in pursuing compensation. 

If your claim is denied and you believe you may be experiencing PTSD from a workplace-related event, contact Carlisle & Byers for a free consultation. You may also call Carlisle + Byers at (509) 228-7011.