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Does California Workers’ Comp Cover Mental Health Issues?

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Posted By DAM Firm | April 11 2024 | Workers' Compensation

Workers in California could experience a range of emotional or mental health issues due to job-related stresses or experiences. In many states across the country, employees are not able to file workers’ compensation claims for these types of injuries. However, California does allow for coverage of “psychiatric injuries” through workers’ comp claims. Here, we want to dig into psychiatric injuries in the context of California workers’ compensation laws.

How Workplace Mental Health Issues Can Affect You – The Symptoms

Mental health issues are becoming increasingly common in the workplace, and they can affect individuals across all industries. Most information focuses on physical Safety at Work but neglects to center on the importance of mental health for employees. Some of the symptoms of workplace mental health issues include:

  • Exhaustion. One of the most significant signs of mental health strain is feeling tired all the time. According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout can leave you feeling physically and emotionally depleted. This is not just about being tired after a long day but experiencing profound fatigue that isn’t relieved by rest.
  • Anxiety and Depression. Champion Health notes that increased anxiety and depression are common symptoms of mental health issues at work. You might feel persistently sad or anxious about work, even when you are at home, impacting your overall well-being.
  • Lack of Concentration. Difficulty concentrating or remembering tasks is another symptom. Purdue University highlights that trouble focusing can be a warning sign of mental health concerns, affecting productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Irritability. Minor issues at work that you would usually shrug off might start to irritate you more than usual. This irritability can strain professional relationships and contribute to a toxic work environment.
  • Physical Symptoms. Mental health issues can also manifest physically. Headaches, stomachaches, and muscle tension can all be related to stress and anxiety at work.

Workers’ Compensation Claims for Mental Health

As we mentioned previously, California does allow for recovery of compensation for what they call “psychiatric injuries” that occur as a result of workplace duties or incidents. However, there are special rules in place in order for individuals to receive a payout for these types of injuries. In other words, there are extra hoops to jump through for potential claimants.

The approach to psychiatric injuries within California’s workers’ comp framework is distinct from that of physical injuries, mainly due to two factors. First, psychological injuries pertain to the subjective experiences of employees, such as their thoughts and emotions, which lack the concrete diagnostic tests available for physical ailments.

Secondly, psychological conditions can stem from a range of sources, not all work-related, like personal or financial issues. There has been concern over the potential for misattributing or fabricating psychiatric injuries as work-related when they may be influenced by other aspects of an employee’s life.

To qualify for psychiatric injury benefits, you must fulfill several criteria:

  • You must be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” through recognized methods.
  • This condition must have led to medical treatment or disability, affecting your capacity to work or complete certain job functions.
  • You need to have been employed by your current employer for a minimum of six months (which doesn’t have to be consecutive) unless the injury was caused by an unexpected, severe incident at work.
  • It must be demonstrated that the “actual events of employment” are the primary cause of the psychiatric injury, accounting for at least 51% of the cause. This threshold is reduced to 35-40% for work-related violence or exposure to a significant violent act.

Essentially, this means you must prove that factors unrelated to your personal life were not the main contributors to your mental health condition. Consequently, aspects of your private life, including family or financial issues, mental health history, substance use, legal troubles, and other sensitive topics, may be examined by the insurance company or medical evaluators to determine the cause of your condition.

Can an Attorney Help You?

If you have sustained any type of work injury or experienced mental health issues due to workplace activities or duties, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. A workers’ compensation lawyer in Riverside can help you understand your options and explore possibilities of recovering compensation for your pain and suffering caused by on-the-job duties.

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