May I Recover For Mental Or Psychological Injuries Caused By My Work Injury?

Pennsylvania workers may receive treatment for a psychiatric/mental conditions caused by a work injury. Of course, the burden is on the worker to prove the injury is work related and treatment is reasonable and necessary. In most cases, employer will not voluntarily pay for such injuries, primarily because psychological injuries are highly subjective. Thus, the occurrence of a mental or psychological injury and its cause must be adequately established.

There are three types of psychological injuries that are compensable under Pennsylvania law:

  • Mental/Physical – These injuries occur when a May I Recover For Mental Or Psychological Injuries Caused By My Work Injury?mental, emotional, or psychological stimulus causes a physical injury;
  • Physical/Mental – These injuries occur when a physical stimulus causes a mental, emotional, or psychological injury;
  • Mental/Mental – These injuries occur when a mental, emotional, or psychological stimulus causes a mental, emotional, or psychological injury.

Claimants must prove that the alleged injury is both work-related and disabling. If the alleged psychological injury was not caused by physical injury, the claimant must produce evidence showing that (a) he suffered a psychological injury and (b) the injury was something more than a subjective reaction to normal working conditions.

The above distinctions are important because differing burdens of proof apply depending on how the injury is categorized. In physical/mental and mental/physical cases, claimants must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that their injuries arose in the course and scope of employment.  A higher burden of proof is required for mental/mental injuries as claimants must demonstrate the existence of “abnormal working conditions.”

An employer’s position will likely be that it accepted only a physical, and not a psychiatric, injury, and therefore the employer is not liable for paying the costs of psychiatric treatment. An employer is only legally responsible for paying medical and wage loss benefits for an accepted injury. Often, a Notice of Compensation Payable is limited by the employer to a “strain/sprain” as the accepted injury.

To hold an employer responsible for any injury other than this description, the injured worker must file a Review Petition requesting that the accepted injury be expanded. Litigating a Review Petition to add accepted injuries to a claim is time-consuming and costly. More importantly, during the interim period, an employer is not liable for the payment of medical bills for the additional claimed injuries.

Thus, employees must be prepared to litigate the issue of whether they have a compensable psychiatric injury as part of their workers’ compensation claim for a physical injury. Because employers have the right to file a Termination Petition to assert an employee’s full recovery from a work injury, they are reluctant to assume responsibility for a psychiatric injury. Such injuries may linger for long, indefinite periods of time and may even be permanent.

Powell Law has protected the rights of Pennsylvania workers for over 110 years. If you have a work-related injury, consult the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Powell Law. Your first consultation is free. Contact us online or call (570) 961-0777.

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