Physical injuries suffered in the course of employment can be devastating for a worker, especially if the worker receives a permanent disability and is unable to return to full working potential. As difficult as a worker may feel it is to receive assistance for a physical injury, it can be almost seem impossible to get compensation for psychological and emotional stress that is a result of work duties. However, it is possible per South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act to receive workers’ compensation based on mental injuries if the claimant can sufficiently show that the injuries arise out of and in the course of the claimant’s employment.
Claiming Workers’ Compensation without a Physical Injury
In making a workers’ compensation claim based on stress-inducing mental illness or injury, a worker does not need to have accompanying physical injuries. However, there are some factors that the claiming worker has to prove for a successful recovery, which include:
- That the work conditions causing the mental injuries, mental illness or stress are extraordinary and are not considered normal in the particular job; and
- There is a medical connection between the claimed stress, mental injury, and mental illness and the stressors caused on the job.
In some cases, a workers’ compensation claimant may need to rely on an expert opinion to prove the causal relationship between the mental stressors and the conditions of employment.
General employment stressors that result in mental illness without accompanying physical injuries are not considered sufficient stressors for a workers’ compensation claim, unless the employer executes these actions in an extraordinary or unusual manner.
Pre-Existing Mental Conditions Aggravated by Physical Injuries
In some cases, a worker may feel as though their pre-existing mental injuries or illness are made worse as a result of an employment-related physical injury. In these cases, a worker may feel as though there is no point in claiming because they had the mental injury or stress before they began the employment and they are already receiving compensation for the physical injury. However, the law allows compensation in cases of aggravated pre-existing mental injury injuries as long as the claimant can meet certain criteria, some of which include:
- A medical determination by a doctor linking the aggravation of the pre-existing condition to the physical injury in whole or in part;
- An admittance by the employer that the physical injury caused the aggravation; and
- After evaluation by a psychiatrist or psychologist, a determination that the worker’s aggravated mental illness or injury was caused in whole or in part by the physical work-related injury.
Contact a Greenville Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have emotional stress or other mental injuries arising from the course of your employment, or feel that your pre-existing mental injuries or illness were made worse by a work-related physical injury, and you are unsure how you should proceed, you should consult with an experienced Greenville workers’ compensation attorney. Contact experienced workers’ compensation attorney Dan Pruitt for a consultation on the facts of your case.