In Wisconsin, someone who suffers from a work-related mental injury may be able to obtain worker’s compensation benefits from his or her employer.
Our attorneys at Sigman Janssen explain circumstances when these benefits may apply and why you may want to consider having an attorney represent you and guide you through the claims process.
Worker’s comp claims for mental injuries and other psychological issues can be difficult to prove. An Appleton or Green Bay worker’s compensation attorney is ready to provide the legal help you need to obtain benefits. Call to schedule a free initial consultation to learn how we may be able to help you.
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Mental Injuries Under Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation
Simply saying that your job causes stress is not enough to validate a claim for a mental injury. According to Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act, non-traumatic mental injuries that arise from extraordinary work stress may be compensable. A non-traumatic mental injury is a psychological injury that a worker sustains in the course of his or her employment that is generally not related to physical trauma.
Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation laws recognize three kinds of work-related mental injuries:
- Physical-Mental – A physical issue (i.e. chronic pain) leads to a mental injury such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychogenic pain disorder or depression
- Mental-Physical – Work stress leads to a physical issue such as a stroke or heart attack
- Mental-Mental – Witnessing a traumatic event (i.e. harassment on the job, verbal or physical abuse from co-workers or employers) leads to a mental injury such as PTSD
To obtain benefits for a mental injury, you will need to establish that the stress of your job leads to an issue and prove that the stress of your job was unexpected for the industry you are working in.
Incident Must Meet Extraordinary Stress Standard
Each worker experiences stress each day. However, the type and amount of stress can vary significantly based on your job and industry. Stress also affects people at work differently.
Worker’s comp claims for mental injuries are evaluated based on whether the incident that caused the issue was extraordinary compared to day-to-day stresses and tensions all workers routinely experience.
The extraordinary stress standard is different for each profession. First responders and other emergency personnel, for instance, are frequently exposed to gruesome injuries as part of their job. Police officers and firemen could make a claim that is considered standard for emergency personnel.
Construction workers may also witness or experience gruesome injuries but not as often in the course of their employment. Office workers, however, are not likely to encounter the same kinds of stress.
The extraordinary stress standard also takes into consideration the nature of the job stressor. Some people are more resilient when faced with stress than others and may not experience a temporary or permanent impairment. Someone with a preexisting mental disorder or someone who is less resilient to stress may experience debilitating symptoms that are severe enough to make him or her mentally unable to perform the job.
Every situation must be carefully assessed, which is why these claims are hard to prove.
Challenges of Proving a Work-Related Mental Injury
Mental injuries are more complex than physical injuries. These kinds of work-related injuries are much less more difficult to prove with diagnostic testing, such as an X-ray or MRI.
For instance, if a worker breaks his or her leg after a fall, an X-ray is likely to clearly diagnose and document the injury. Filing a worker’s comp claim for physical injuries is usually straightforward.
Most mental injuries, however, do not have a specific type of diagnostic test. Different types of tests are usually done to help clarify a diagnosis and plan treatment.
To make a worker’s comp claim, the burden of proof is on the worker to show the following:
- Mental injury was caused by or arose out of the scope of his or his employment
- Mental health condition has resulted in temporary or permanent impairment
- Mental issue prevents you from working (i.e. inability to focus and perform tasks)
Importance of Seeing a Mental Health Professional
Just like workers who must see a doctor to treat their physical injuries, workers suffering from a mental injury and pursuing benefits must also see a mental health professional.
It is important to be examined by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist, sooner rather than later to help establish evidence of your mental injury.
Be prepared to discuss the symptoms you are experiencing in detail and how your working environment is a contributing factor to your mental issues. Common symptoms of a mental injury include depression or anxiety, withdrawal, changes in mood and behavior, trouble sleeping and memory issues.
A mental health professional could help you connect your symptoms to your work activities. Perhaps a single incident or recurring circumstances can be reasonably linked to your mental injury. You may want to also consider keeping a daily journal to document the severity and extent of your symptoms.
Learn How an Attorney May Be Able to Help You
If you have suffered a work-related mental injury, you may qualify for benefits. We encourage you to contact an attorney at our firm to review your claim. We are well-versed in the state’s workers comp laws and how they may apply to you. The initial consultation is free of charge and carries no obligation.
There is also nothing to pay up front for our services. We only get paid if we help you obtain benefits.
Call (877) 888-5201 for Trusted Legal Help.