Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits Available for Mental Injuries?

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Man having stress.Most employees in South Carolina know the basics of the state’s workers’ compensation law: a worker who suffers an injury on the job (cut, broken bone, concussion, etc.) is generally able to file a claim and obtain compensation for medical treatment and benefits as permitted by law during the period that he or she remains unable to work. These workers’ compensation benefits are also available where the worker becomes physically ill while on the jobsite (for example, if the worker is exposed to chemical fumes or vapors). Both physical injuries and illnesses can produce a significant amount of mental distress – is this distress compensable under the workers’ compensation laws, too?

Is the Stress Related to a Normal Work Event?

If the mental distress or trauma is attributable to a normal work event – that is, a condition or event that is present on most every jobsite – then chances are the mental distress is not compensable under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation statutes. “Normal” mental distress would be distress that is caused by events such as:

  •      Review boards or sessions;
  •      Transfers from one department to another; or
  •      Demotions or a poor performance review.

The standard used to determine if compensation for a mental injury is available is whether the mental injury arose because of a physical injury or whether the mental injury was caused by unusual and exceptional workplace conditions. So for example, the following mental injuries would likely be compensable under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws:

  • You are mentally traumatized by seeing your arm amputated by machinery or the pain and suffering of a chemical burn; or
  • There is an especially traumatic situation at work that causes you a verifiable mental injury (such as you observe a fellow employee be murdered or you become the victim of sexual assault or other violent crime while on the jobsite).

What if I Already Have a Mental Condition and Work Made it Worse?

Similar rules apply if you have a preexisting mental injury and you claim that a physical injury at work has aggravated that condition or worsened your symptoms. In the case of a preexisting mental injury, you must show that the aggravation in your condition:

  • Is admitted to and stipulated to by the employer and its carrier;
  • Is noted by a physician to be at least partially related or connected to the injury;
  • Is found to be related to the injury or accident by a psychologist or psychiatrist; or
  • Is noted in a medical report or record of the employee’s physician that the aggravation is connected to the injury or accident.

Your Greenville Workers’ Compensation Attorney is Here to Help

The office of David R. Price, Jr., P.A. is here to help South Carolina workers who are injured – either physically or mentally – while on the job recover the compensation they may be entitled to under the law. Contact David R. Price, Jr. by phone by calling (864) 271-2636 or contacting him online and discuss your worker’s compensation case with him.

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