Assisting Clients Across California Since 1993

Workers’ compensation and mental illness in California

Not every work-related injury is visible. Some jobs can expose you to trauma and stress that affects your mental health. Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affect millions of Americans, many of whose conditions developed or worsened on the job.

Careers in medicine, first response, law enforcement and the military may be the most prone to causing what California workers’ compensation law calls “psychiatric injuries.” But any worker could be exposed to extreme stress and trauma, such as a violent incident at work. The resulting symptoms can make life unmanageable. It can take months or years for therapy, medication and other treatment to begin improving those symptoms enough so that the patient can go back to work.

Proving psychiatric injury to a Folsom worker

You already know that California workers who suffer physical injuries on the job can apply for and receive workers’ compensation to help make up for their lost income and medical costs. You can also get workers’ comp for psychiatric injuries, but the standard for getting awarded benefits is higher. You must prove the following:

  • You have a properly diagnosed “mental disorder.”
  • As a result, you have experienced disability that prevents you from performing your work.
  • In most cases, you have worked for your employer for at least six months.
  • “Actual events of employment” were the “predominant” cause of your condition, meaning at least 51 percent responsible.

The standard is somewhat lower if you are claiming psychiatric injury because of violence at work, either against yourself or witnessing it against others. In that case, you only need proof that the violence caused 35 to 40 percent of your mental health condition.

Giving yourself a fighting chance on appeal

Connecting a purely mental injury to your job is typically more challenging than for those who got physically hurt. But such injuries are just as real and damaging. If you have been turned down for workers’ comp, your best chance of a successful appeal is to work with an attorney who regularly practices workers’ comp law.