Ohio Supreme Court limits workers' compensation for psychological harm
A recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling has further limited the criteria for mental conditions that qualify for compensation.
October 19, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Ohio Supreme Court limits workers' compensation for psychological harm
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Employees in Franklin County, Ohio, who are covered by the state's workers' compensation system expect to be taken care of when they suffer harm on the job through no fault of their own. Workers' compensation can cover physical harm ranging from a lost limb to a stress injury; but for psychological harm, compensation is less readily available. A recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling has further limited the criteria for mental conditions that qualify for compensation.
Physical injuries must cause psychological ones
Psychological conditions or disorders that arise from the workplace have traditionally not been covered by workers' compensation, unless they were caused by a workplace incident that also caused the victim physical harm. Earlier this year, the Ohio Supreme Court made the criteria for compensable mental conditions more stringent and ruled that, for a condition to be compensable, it must be caused by a compensable physical condition.
In the case in question the appellant, Shaun Armstrong, was injured while driving a dump truck as an employee of John R. Jurgensen Company. Armstrong was stopped at a yield sign when another vehicle collided with him from behind. The other driver did not survive; Armstrong, in addition to sustaining injuries, witnessed the approach of the other vehicle and the condition of the other driver after the crash. Armstrong was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Armstrong's claim for his physical injuries was allowed. However, Jurgensen appealed Armstrong's request for an allowance for his mental condition. Jurgensen demonstrated that Armstrong's PTSD arose not from the physical injuries he sustained, but from the experience of the accident. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a psychological injury must stem from a compensable physical injury to be covered.
In the past, workers with psychiatric conditions could file a claim for a psychological injury if they concurrently received a physical injury. Now, however, workers don't just need to show that they were injured and suffered psychological distress during the same incident; they have to show that the physical injury caused the mental condition.
In many cases, this may make compensation for mental conditions very difficult to obtain. However, employees can still seek adequate compensation for their physical injuries.
Compensation for physical harm
Physical injuries are a prerequisite for claiming psychological injury, so it may be more productive for employees to focus on receiving compensation for those bodily injuries. The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation reports that workers are most frequently awarded the following benefits:
-Wage loss compensation
-Temporary total compensation
-Permanent total disability compensation
-A lump sum settlement
Even if Ohio workers will have a more difficult time establishing that mental conditions are compensable, a properly filed claim for a physical injury can still be effective.
Many employees may believe that, if they are dealing with a "straightforward" physical injury, it is not necessary to bring in outside help. However, it is important for anyone who has suffered a workplace injury to speak to an attorney about receiving appropriate compensation.
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