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Court Rejects Claim Based on Employee’s Psychiatric Injury

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2018 | Construction Accidents, Workers' Compensation Case Law |

In some Georgia workers’ compensation claims, injured employees may receive benefits for emotional injuries as well as physical injuries. In a recent case, one state’s appeals court considered a psychiatric injury claim after a construction site accident.

In that case, the construction worker was operating a soil compactor on a hill, and the compactor rose up in the air, causing it to fall backwards on top of the worker. The worker filed for workers’ compensation benefits, and the workers’ compensation judge found the worker sustained a back injury and a psychiatric injury.

Under that state’s law, since the worker had worked at his job for less than six months, his psychiatric injury was compensable if it was caused by a “sudden and extraordinary employment condition.” Courts interpreted that standard to mean that the event was not a routine physical injury but instead was an event that would be expected to cause a psychiatric injury, such as an explosion or workplace violence. The worker was required to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the event was “something other than a regular and routine employment event or condition” and that the event “was uncommon, unusual, and occurred unexpectedly.”

The court concluded that in this case, the worker failed to prove that the event was sudden and extraordinary. The court explained that the worker did not provide any evidence about what normally happens when a compactor hits a rock on a slope. The court also found it was not a sudden event because the worker had been operating the compactor on the slope for about half an hour before the incident occurred. Therefore, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and denied the worker’s claim for psychiatric injury.

Psychological Injuries in Workers’ Compensation Cases

In a Georgia workers’ compensation case, a worker can receive benefits for a psychiatric injury in some cases. A physical injury resulting from an emotional event is compensable, as is an emotional injury resulting from a physical event. However, a psychiatric injury resulting from a purely psychological or emotional stimulus is not compensable under Georgia law if there is no physical injury.

Under Georgia law, generally a psychiatric injury must satisfy two conditions to be compensable. First, the injury must arise out of an accident in which there is a compensable physical injury. Second, at a minimum, the physical injury must contribute to the continuation of the psychiatric trauma. Thus, if a physical injury was sustained, a psychiatric injury arising out of the accident generally is compensable if the physical injury contributes to the continuation of the psychiatric trauma, as long as the trauma amounts to more than a mild depression or anxiety.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured in a Georgia workplace accident, contact a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. The Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. has decades of experience in workers’ compensation claims and can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. We offer quality legal representation and responsive client service. For a free consultation, call us at 404-920-4708 or contact us through our online form. To learn more about how we can help you obtain workers’ compensation benefits, give us a call to discuss your case.