Although most Georgia workers’ compensation claims result from a physical injury at work, some workers also suffer a mental health injury at work. In a recent case, one court considered whether a worker’s psychological injury was compensable under that state’s law.
The Applicable Law
The case was brought in Florida, and under Florida law, there is a requirement that there be an “accompanying physical injury requiring medical treatment” before benefits for mental or nervous injuries can be paid. In order for a mental or nervous injury to be compensable, there must be clear and convincing medical evidence from a licensed psychiatrist, and the physical injury has to be the major contributing cause of the mental or nervous condition. Additionally, there has to be a connection between the mental or nervous injury and an underlying permanent, compensable physical injury. There is also a state statute that provides that an employee cannot be paid temporary benefits for a “mental or nervous injury” for “more than 6 months after the date of maximum medical improvement for the injured employee’s physical injury or injuries.”
The Facts of the Case
In this case, the court had to consider whether the six-month period mentioned in the statute can begin at any time after the worker reaches physical maximum medical improvement, or whether the time period expires six months after the worker reaches physical maximum medical improvement.
The court determined that the time period expires six months after the worker reaches physical maximum medical improvement. Under the court’s interpretation, that means that a worker has to show a potentially compensable mental or nervous injury within six months of reaching physical maximum medical improvement to be eligible for temporary mental health disability benefits. The court explained that the mental health benefits are an exception to the general rule that such injuries are not compensable. Since in this case, the worker’s mental injury developed more than six months after she reached maximum medical improvement, the court rejected the worker’s claim.
Mental Health Injuries in Georgia Workers’ Compensation Cases
In Georgia, to receive workers’ compensation benefits for a “psychic” or emotional injury, there must be psychic or emotional trauma attributable to a physical injury. There can also be a physical injury attributable to a psychic or emotional stimulus. However, under Georgia law, a psychic or emotional injury from a psychic or emotional stimulus is not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act if there is no physical injury.
Therefore, for a psychological injury to be compensable, it must satisfy two conditions: 1) the injury must arise out of an accident in which there is a compensable physical injury; and 2) the physical injury must at least contribute to the continuation of the psychological trauma.
Have You Been Injured at Work?
If you were injured at work, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. is dedicated to representing injured people. If you have been hurt in a workplace accident, our experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys will skillfully lead you through the process of pursuing benefits. Our Georgia law firm offers quality legal representation and responsive client service. We have a track record of positive case results resulting in millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 404-303-7770 or through our online form.