When you think of workers’ compensation, you probably think of a physical injury suffered during your line of work. While that is the most common type of injury, some work injuries don’t leave any physical signs or visible scars. Mental injuries or emotional distress are two types of non-physical injuries that may be compensable under Minnesota’s workers’ compensation law. Today, we take a closer look at these injuries.
PTSD & Other Mental Injuries
Mental injuries or psychological damage can be difficult to prove, and you also need to prove that the mental distress was brought upon by your role in the workplace. Because it’s a complicated process, Minnesota has separated valid claims into one of three categories:
- Mental stress producing a physical injury
- A physical injury producing a mental injury
- Mental stress producing a mental injury
We’ll break down all three subsets of injuries below.
Mental Stress Producing a Physical Injury
This type of mental injury is the easiest of the three to prove because it leads to an actual physical injury. According to Minnesota law, a person may have a valid workers’ compensation claim under this subset if the case involves a few different factors. The claimant must prove both legal and medical causation in order to have a valid claim. Legal causation means that the claimant must submit medical proof that mental stress resulted in the employee’s physical condition, while legal causation requires the claimant to prove that the work-related mental stress went “beyond the ordinary day-to-day stress to which all employees are exposed.” Lastly, in order to be compensable, the state of Minnesota requires that physical ailments caused by mental stress must be susceptible to medical treatment that is different and independent from treatment of the employee’s medical condition. For example, this means that you can’t receive compensation for an anxiety disorder brought on by workplace stress, because the treatment of the mental illness would be the same as the treatment you’d receive for the injury (anxiety disorder) you are pursuing a claim for.
Physical Trauma Producing a Mental Injury
Compensation for this type of claim is a little more difficult to prove. In this instance, a claimant needs to prove that work-related physical trauma caused or accelerated a mental injury. The law states that a physical injury does not need to be a sole factor in the mental injury, only a contributing factor, and there is no specific threshold for how severe a mental injury derived from a physical injury needs to be in order to be compensable. In this scenario, an employee must prove that a physical stimulus played a role in the development of a mental injury, and there must exist a “clear medical opinion connection the psychological condition to the injury.”
Mental Stress Producing Mental Injury
Unfortunately, Minnesota law does not allow for compensation for these types of injuries, except in a few extreme circumstances. The only way you’ll receive compensation for this type of injury is if you can prove mental stress has caused post-traumatic stress disorder, and that injury occurred after October 1, 2013. A little over three years ago an amendment to the Workers’ Compensation Act included a provision that allowed for compensability of PTSD claims under specific circumstances. The law states that the PTSD had to arise out of and in the course of employment, and it needs to be medically diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist. For example, a person may be able to receive benefits under this subset if they witness a co-worker suffer an extreme or fatal accident on the job. There are other possible causes, but they aren’t specifically listed. However, the state has ruled that a PTSD claim is not valid if the diagnosis of PTSD comes about as a result of a demotion, disciplinary action, job transfer, layoff, promotion, retirement, termination, work evaluation or any action taken by the employer deemed to be in good faith.
It’s obvious that pursuing a claim under any of these subsets will be complicated and challenging, and your best chance of receiving a work comp claim for a mental injury is by connecting with a workers’ compensation attorney. Contact us if you want to talk about your options.
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