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Can you get workers' compensation for a psychiatric injury?

When California residents hear the phrase "injured on the job," they might automatically think that to get workers' compensation benefits it must be something physical. That can include broken bones, cuts, bruises, back injuries and worse. However, people can suffer injuries that are more difficult to discern. Psychiatric injuries can be just as severe as physical injuries and lead to the worker being unable to fulfill his or her duties. Getting workers' compensation benefits is possible with psychiatric injuries if the requirements under state law are met.

A worker who has a psychiatric injury can get workers' compensation benefits if the mental disorder leads to disability or requires medical treatment. Psychiatric diagnosis must be given that it is occurring. For the psychiatric issue to warrant compensation, the employee must show evidence that events on the job were the main causes for the injury. If the psychiatric injury came about after being victimized in a violent act or from being exposed to a violent act, there must be a preponderance of the evidence that this came about due to the employment and was a substantial cause of the psychiatric injury. When "substantial cause" is used, it refers to the causation accounting for 35 to 40 percent of the issue.

To receive workers' compensation for a psychiatric injury, the employee must have worked at the job for a minimum of six months. It does not have to be continuous. If there is a work condition that is sudden and extraordinary, this will not apply. People who were laid off or terminated can still get workers' compensation for psychiatric injury.

There will be no workers' compensation unless there is a preponderance of the evidence showing that the work events were a main cause and there were sudden and extraordinary events causing the injury; the employer was informed of the psychiatric injury before the dismissal or layoff; the medical records before the dismissal or layoff showed evidence of the injury; there was harassment; and the evidence shows that the psychiatric injury occurred after the notification of dismissal or being laid off and before it went into effect.

Workers who have a clear physical injury are not the only ones who can get workers' compensation benefits. If there is a psychiatric injury, it can also warrant benefits. It is imperative that the worker understand the criteria to receive these benefits before applying. Having legal assistance can help California residents understand how workers' compensation can help.

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  • San Jose: 408-624-8420
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  • San Luis Obispo: 805-475-3890

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