A few months ago, a colleague of mine, Theodore Bowman, wrote a blog discussing the difficulty, and virtual impossibility, of an emergency responder to have a compensable workers’ compensation claim for post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other psychological disorder, unless the psychological condition is a result of physical injuries sustained as a result of a work-related incident.
Shortly thereafter, the Ohio Supreme Court reiterated the proposition that an injured worker can not have a compensable psychological claim unless the psychological condition arose from the injuries sustained. In Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co., 136 Ohio St.3d 58, 2013-Ohio-2237, the injured worker was rear-ended at high speed by another driver. The injured worker witnessed the driver of the other vehicle unconscious and bleeding at the scene. While at the hospital following the accident, the injured worker learned that the other driver had died.
In addition to suffering physical injuries as a result of the motor vehicle accident, the injured worker developed post-traumatic stress disorder. The psychological condition was amended into the claim by the Industrial Commission of Ohio, however, the Employer continued to fight and appealed the matter into the Court of Common Pleas.
The matter went through the entire Court system, with the Ohio Supreme Court rendering its decision in favor of the Employer. The Court held that in order for a psychological condition to be included in a workers’ compensation claim, in this case post-traumatic stress disorder, the condition must be a result of the physical injuries sustained by the injured worker. The fact that the injured worker witnessed a traumatic event, i.e. the industrial incident, is insufficient by itself to allow a psychological condition to be included in the workers’ compensation claim.
So where does this leave the compensability of psychological conditions, especially post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that tends to develop as a result of a traumatic event? While the Courts have certainly made it difficult, it is not (yet) impossible to have a psychological condition included in a workers’ compensation claim. If you or someone you know suffers from a work related injury, and is suffering emotionally because of it, do not hesitate to contact Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A. As we have for over 50 years, we will not hesitate to fight for your rights.