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Workers’ Comp Law: Psychological Injury Claims

ny workers comp lawyerI am often asked whether claims for psychological injury can be covered by workers’ compensation and the answer is yes. Yes, but.

First of all, there is a concept in the law that every first year law student learns about taking the person as you find the person. In other words, if someone with a soft head walks down the street, this being called the egg shell theory in law school, and someone drops something on the person’s head causing injury, it is no defense to say the injury would not have been happened if only the person had a hard head.

Likewise, in workers’ compensation in New York, if you have an accident and get hurt, it doesn’t matter whether you had a pre-disposition to this injury or a pre-existing condition, unless, the claim is for psychological stress. This becomes an exception.

The example I often give to prospective clients is of a real-life case a few years ago in which an EMS worker was called to the scene of a car accident. A driver was trapped in a car and was badly injured. The worker stayed with the driver until further help could come to extricate the driver from the car. In the meantime the driver died and the worker became depressed over having spent time with someone and watching him die.

Yet, she lost her case. The courts ruled that EMS workers are generally exposed to such situations and the question in a psychological claim is whether the worker was exposed to a stress not normally experienced by someone in this type of job.

We usually tell clients that a claim must be an outrageous situation such as sexual harassment or being held up at gunpoint. And, if your boss makes a lawful personnel decision, no matter how mean or ill-considered, this would not be covered either.

Our office has however won many of these cases. We have in fact been successful with several cases of clients being robbed at gunpoint, sexually harassed or subjected to outrageous treatment at work. The question often must be left to a judge as to whether the treatment was harsh enough to qualify someone for workers’ compensation benefits. Sadly, we handled more than 25 cases of clients who were subjected to the terror at work on September 11, 2001.

On the other hand, we have consulted with many clients who decided against bringing a claim because it wasn’t worth the trouble

If you do prevail in a mental stress case, you would be entitled to medical care a portion of lost salary. If you don’t lose any time for work, you won’t receive any money at all. Or, another possibility is for example one case we handled in which our client was held up at gunpoint on one job, but was able to return to her second job. She received money for the wages lost.

Contact a New York Workers’ Comp Attorney

So, these types of claims are tricky and it is essential to consult with a New York workers’ compensation lawyer before proceeding. Contact experienced workers’ comp attorney Robert A. Koenigsberg at (212) 964-9292 or fill out an online contact form to schedule your first free initial consultation.