Many people suffer traumatic events while doing their job. Some people suffer car crashes while driving. Others witness other people suffering serious injuries. Still others are robbed or shot.
Often, these traumatic events cause an individual to develop a psychological condition called post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition is often known as PTSD.
PTSD is a medical condition that often develops as a result of a stressful experience or multiple stressful experiences. Think about firefighters or police officers. They are often put in stressful situations. Many other people experience stress as well.
So, what happens when someone develops PTSD as a result of an incident at work? The idea behind workers compensation is that it provides certain benefits when an employee suffers an injury on the job. One question that workers compensation courts have had to determine is what constitutes an injury.
Pretty much everyone would agree that a broken arm suffered as a result of a fall at work is a workers compensation injury. But, not every injury is that clear cut. In this article, I will whether Georgia’s workers compensation law covers PTSD and other psychological conditions that develop from incidents at work.
Does Georgia workers compensation ever cover PTSD?
Yes. There are some situations where Georgia’s workers compensation law does cover PTSD and other psychological conditions. But, Georgia’s rules about when psychological conditions are covered and when they are not is fairly strange.
If an individual suffers a physical injury on the job and also develops a psychological condition as a result of the injury, that person will likely be able to receive workers compensation benefits for the psychological condition as well as the physical injury. One example of this situation is a bad car wreck.
Someone in a car wreck may have physical injuries. This same individual might also develop PTSD as a result of the trauma from the event. In this situation, the workers compensation insurance company should pay benefits for the PTSD because the injured worker also suffered a physical injury.
What happens if an employee develops PTSD from work but does not have a physical injury?
Unfortunately, Georgia workers compensation rules are different when an individual develops PTSD or another psychological condition without a physical injury. The basic rule in this situation is that workers compensation does not cover the psychological condition when there is no physical injury.
This rule has developed as a result of Georgia courts deciding what an “injury” is. Unfortunately, the courts in Georgia have interpreted Georgia’s workers compensation laws to find that there is not an injury when an individual develops a psychological condition without a physical injury.
This rule has some very harsh and strange effects. The rule focuses on whether someone suffers a physical injury instead of focusing on the amount of trauma they suffered. So, a convenience store clerk who is tied up and held hostage at gunpoint for 12 hours but not physically injury would not be covered by workers compensation if she developed PTSD. But, a convenience store clerk who was punched while the store was robbed would be covered even if the psychological trauma was much less severe.
Not necessarily. Each state has its own workers compensation laws. The courts in each state interpret these laws.
Some states have laws that have been written to make sure that workers compensation covers psychological conditions like PTSD, even when there is not a physical injury. In some other states, the courts have interpreted the laws differently than Georgia courts and have concluded that psychological conditions are covered.
If you have a workers compensation claim in another state, you will certainly need to check with an attorney who handles workers compensation claims in the state where your claim is filed or needs to be filed. If you need help finding an attorney, I can often recommend someone for you.
Could Georgia’s “physical injury” rule be changed in the future?
Yes. Workers compensation law are not set in stone. The Georgia legislature could amend the laws to provide that workers compensation covers psychological conditions even when there is no physical injury. Georgia’s courts could also revisit their prior decisions and decide differently in a new case. But, courts do not do this very often.