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Pickett v. Advance Auto Parts – PTSD and Workers’ Comp Benefits for Robbed Employee

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2016 | Georgia Job Safety |

It’s estimated that in 2014, there were nearly 120,000 robberies involving firearms in the U.S. Many of those are perpetrated on businesses.

That accounts for a percentage of the violence people experience in the workplace. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports workplace violence accounts for 15 percent of all non-fatal crimes against persons over the age of 16.

A person who endures such an ordeal will be affected not just physically, but emotionally as well. But the question of whether mental and emotional injuries can be compensated through workers’ compensation is a complex one. The answer will likely depend on the extent to which the trauma affects the person’s daily life.

Recently, the appeals court in North Carolina took on this issue, as did the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In both cases, courts upheld the worker’s right to obtain workers’ compensation for a disabling mental injury.

In the North Carolina case of Pickett v. Advance Auto Parts, claimant was employed as a driver and salesperson for an auto parts store. In 2012, the store was the target of an armed robbery. A gunman burst through the front doors, aimed his firearm at plaintiff and ordered the general manager – the only other person in the store – to seize cash from the registers and hand it over. The general manager complied and the gunman fled.

Plaintiff immediately wanted to leave work, but the manager insisted he stay. He did, however he did not return to the store after that day. He sought treatment from his doctor as well as a psychologist and a number of other medical professionals for a range of ailments that included vision and hearing loss, chest pain, high blood pressure, weakness in his arm and general anxiety and discomfort. The psychologist and primary care doctor diagnosed him with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of the trauma of having the gun pulled on him in the robbery.

Plaintiff filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, but employer denied the claim. Employer argued plaintiff’s medical condition wasn’t causally related to the robbery and thus was not eligible for benefits.

Deputy commissioner sided with plaintiff and awarded benefits. Employer appealed, arguing plaintiff was malingering and he’d exaggerated the details of what happened. The full commission affirmed, as did the North Carolina appellate court.

In the Pennsylvania case, which was decided in January, The Morning Call reports a former liquor store manager won his bid for benefits after enduring an armed robbery in 2008. In that case, a masked gunman put a gun to the back of the manager’s head, duct-taped him to a chair and then robbed the store.

It was the only time in 30 years of working at the store he’d experienced such an incident. Yet the employer, in denying workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD, asserted robbery was a “normal working condition,” which therefore shouldn’t trigger benefits.

The court disagreed. An attorney for the man noted that ironically, had the man been shot, he’d have been automatically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, because he followed the correct procedure and saved himself and co-workers from harm, his employer sought to deny him any recovery.

But when the emotional trauma of such an incident results in crippling one’s ability to complete day-to-day activities, workers’ compensation benefits should be a guarantee.

For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-920-4708 .