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Mental health problems not necessarily covered by workers' comp.

The Ohio Supreme Court has handed down a ruling that has some workers' compensation advocates disgruntled. The decision, which held a mental-health claim is covered by workers' compensation only if it is related to a physical injury, derived from an accident where a vehicle slammed into the back of a company truck, killing the driver of the first vehicle. The driver of the company truck was physically injured and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Ohio Supreme Court found there was not enough evidence to establish the physical injuries were a cause of the post-traumatic stress disorder.

The ruling, which was split 5-2 amongst the justices, creates a very tricky area for workers' compensation claimants to navigate. Quite often, physical injuries suffered while on the job will lead to mental stress and mental disorders. Yet, after this ruling, a claimant must prove the mental health issue was directly caused by the claimant's own physical injuries. This may be difficult as many mental stresses come as a result of seeing harm being done to others. Many will agree with one of the dissenting justices who stated a worker should be compensated for being depressed over his own injuries as well as being haunted by the trauma of the accident.

Though the Ohio Supreme Court's holding in this case makes obtaining workers' compensation for mental disorders difficult, it is not impossible. Those who are injured on the job should immediately contact a workers' compensation attorney to discuss the issue. A competent lawyer can walk a client through the process of obtaining compensation by discussing the extent of the client's injuries. If the mental damage can be tied to the worker's physical injuries, then compensation may be obtained for that harm.

In general, an injured worker may recover several types of damages. Amongst these are medical expenses, loss of wages, and loss of future earning capacity. As mentioned above, compensation for mental health problems may also be recoverable. Workplace injuries should never occur, but when they do the employees who have placed themselves in harm's way should be compensated accordingly. An experienced attorney can help make that happen.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Workers' comp need not cover mental-health claim, justices rule," Alan Johnson, Jun. 5, 2013

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