When most of us think about getting hurt at work, we imagine stubbing our toes on a step, falling and breaking a limb, or lifting something too heavy and throwing out our backs. We rarely think about the possibility of injuries that are more emotional or mental than physical. This may be because these types of injuries are stigmatized or because they are harder to prove.

In New Jersey, workers’ compensation laws apply to mental health injuries in addition to physical bodily injuries. This means that workers who suffer a mental health issue or disease as a result of their job are entitled to compensation for time off work needed to treat their injury and medical bills.  This may come as a surprise to those suffering silently from difficult workplace environments.

What Constitutes a Mental Health Injury in Hamilton Township?

Mental health injuries are those types of mental conditions that make it impossible for an employee to do his or her day-to-day job. While all of us suffer from stress and related anxieties at work on occasion, this stress rarely rises to the level of causing us disability and making it impossible to work.

For some employees, however, a particularly difficult work environment or a bad work experience can result in a mental health diagnosis that causes significant impairment and makes it difficult to function on a daily basis. For example, an employee may be forced to work such long hours on a consistent basis that it has a real and detrimental impact on his or her mental health.

Other possible examples include working in such a high-stress environment for a prolonged period of time that an employee develops an anxiety disorder or depression and is unable to cope with the daily realities of his or her job. Or an employee may be involved in a once-off workplace incident, such as being attacked or harassed at work, that results in post-traumatic stress disorder and continues to impact day-to-day life.

The Challenges of Workplace Mental Health Issues

In every workers’ compensation case, the employee bears the burden of showing that the injury he or she has experienced is a result of the workplace and not some other external condition or situation. With physical injuries that could have multiple causes or arose over time, this can be challenging. With mental health injuries, this hurdle is particularly difficult to overcome as it can be difficult (if not impossible) to show that a mental health injury is the result of work and not some other life or hereditary issue.

If your mental health injury is the result of a particularly traumatizing event at work, you may be able to use this event to more clearly make the link for your injury. Particularly if others witnessed the event as well and can discuss what happened and its impact on you, you may be able to put together the evidence necessary to support your claim.

With mental health injuries that arise over time, perhaps due to stress or difficulties at work, you will likely need to rely on the assistance of experienced mental health professionals to help you prove your claim. Through testing and therapy, they may be able to establish the root cause of the difficulties you are suffering and present reports or testimony establishing the link between your health and the environment where you were working.

As always, it is important to keep good documentation of the development of your injury. If you are experiencing extreme stress or disturbances at work, keeping a journal documenting these events and how they have impacted your mental health may be helpful. This contemporaneous evidence can go a long way when you are trying to make a workers’ compensation claim at a later date.

New Jersey Attorneys Supporting Your Mental Health Needs

Although mental health injuries are less commonly discussed in the context of workers’ compensation, they are no less serious than physical injuries that a worker may experience. Left untreated, issues such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or depression can easily make it difficult to perform your best in the workplace and may become even more disabling down the road.

It is strongly recommended that you consult with a qualified NJ workers’ compensation attorney for a mental health workers’ comp claim as these cases can be quite challenging.

Some of the most common issues the attorneys at Petro Cohen successfully handle for our clients include the following:

  • The insurance company’s initial denial (rejection) of a workers’ comp claim based on a number of different reasons:
    • Failure of employee to notify employer in a timely manner
    • Failure of employee to seek medical treatment for a work-related injury in a timely manner
    • Determination that the injury was suffered outside the scope of employment
    • Determination that the injury was not suffered at a place of employment (this may include a determination that the injury was pre-existing)
    • Determination that the incident leading to injury is exempt from workers’ comp insurance coverage (e.g., self-inflicted injury, injury caused as a result of horseplay, injury caused because of impairment due to alcohol or drugs)
  • The insurance company’s decision to not pay (or discontinue payment of) medical expenses based on the following reasons:
    • Determination that the medical treatment is or was provided by an unauthorized physician
    • Determination that the type and/or duration of treatment is or was not authorized
    • Determination that the medical treatment is unnecessary and/or unreasonable
    • Determination that the medical treatment is unrelated to work-related injury
    • Determination that the medical treatment has exceeded a reasonable duration
  • The insurance company’s decision regarding temporary, permanent, partial, and/or total disability:
    • Each of these classifications of disability determine the amount and duration of weekly benefits that an injured employee may receive, and insurance companies may improperly classify a disability in order to pay less benefits.
  • The insurance company’s failure to correctly calculate an injured employee’s average weekly wages:
    • An employee’s average weekly wages prior to the work-related injury is critical in determining the amount of weekly benefits to be paid to an injured employee. Failure to correctly calculate this number may result in lower weekly check amounts.
  • An insurance company’s low-ball settlement offer:
    • In order to resolve an outstanding claim as quickly as possible (for as little money as possible), the insurance company may offer a low-ball amount to settle the claim. In workers’ comp cases, any settlement reached is referred to as a “lump sum settlement.”
  • Unlawful termination of employment because of a work injury:
    • Employers are not required to hold an employee’s position open in every single workers’ comp situation; in many cases, they must hold the job open.
    • There are strict rules and regulations that govern an employer’s duty in this regard; in many cases, employers unlawfully and/or improperly terminate an injured employee’s employment.
    • Moreover, injured employees may be able to return to work with certain restrictions, but employers do not want to deal with the hassle. In these cases, employers fail to provide legally required, necessary accommodations, or they may simply unlawfully terminate employees due to the restrictions.

At Petro Cohen, P.C., our workers’ compensation attorneys take your mental health injuries seriously and will work with you to carefully evaluate how you may be able to establish the link between your injuries and your job. For more information or to schedule an initial consultation, contact us online or at (888) 675-7607.