On-the-job injuries can come in a variety of different forms. Not only are there the physical injuries that result from workplace accidents, but there are also mental and emotional injuries that lead to post-traumatic stress syndrome. PTSD's impact can touch many aspects of your life, including your ability to work.
You're entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits whenever you experience a serious on-the-job injury. Unfortunately, filing a claim for workplace-related PTSD can be a difficult process with many roadblocks. Here are a few pointers that can make the claims process a bit easier.
1. Check Your State's Laws Regarding PTSD Claims
Each state has its own rules regarding PTSD-related workers' compensation claims. Some states may allow PTSD-related claims, but only for law enforcement officials and others employed in fields where mental and emotional trauma is prevalent. Other states may require a much higher standard for proving claims based on psychological or mental injury or even prohibit such claims entirely.
Many states set a high bar for PTSD-related claims to filter out any frivolous actions and prevent cases of workers' comp fraud. In Arizona, for instance, mental injuries stemming from workplace activity must be the result of "unexpected, unusual, or extraordinary stress." Other states require any mental injury to be accompanied by physical injury.
A little research can go a long way towards overcoming these hurdles and pushing your workers' compensation claim forward. Checking your state's workers' compensation laws can give you an idea of how to pursue your claim successfully.
2. Document Symptoms As Soon As They Occur
Symptoms for workplace-related PTSD are not only varied, but they could occur at any point after the initial trauma. Your reaction to a traumatic event may be different from someone else's reaction. PTSD symptoms can also take months or even years to fully manifest, which is why it's important to document the symptoms as soon as they appear.
Your psychiatrist or psychologist can document appearance and severity of your PTSD symptoms through consistent, continuing treatment. Your mental health specialist can provide a written assessment of your symptoms and their effects on your ability to work.
In addition to documenting when PTSD symptoms occur, you should also take note of their duration. This is important from a legal standpoint. PTSD symptoms must last over a month in order for your PTSD claim to be recognized. Otherwise, your symptoms may be considered "acute stress disorder," and your claim will be handled differently.
3. Get Statements from Friends, Family, and Co-Workers
Observations from those who know you best can also work in your favor. For instance, a long-time coworker can accurately attest to your behavior before and after the traumatic event, providing a clearer picture of when and how your PTSD symptoms appeared. Having a coworker, relative, or close friend accurately attest to your PTSD symptoms and the problems they pose for you at work can solidify your claim and improve your odds of success.
4. File Your Claim As Soon As Possible
Every state has its own statute of limitations for workers' compensation claims. You'll also need to inform your employer of your injuries within a specific time frame; otherwise, you could lose your ability to file a claim. For injuries that develop over time, however, filing a claim within the statute of limitations can turn into a race against the clock.
Fortunately, the statute of limitations for workplace-related PTSD won't start until your mental health specialist makes a formal diagnosis. Nevertheless, you should file your claim as soon as possible to stay ahead of any time constraints. Your workers' compensation attorney can help you stay abreast of any deadlines and offer additional guidance when it comes to your claim.