Workers compensation for non-physical injuries in Ohio
Workers compensation, or “workers comp,” provides benefits for job-related injuries or illnesses without regard to fault. Workers do not have to go through litigation in order to receive payment. All they have to show is that an injury or illness was directly related to their job duties. Workers comp applies to all sorts of physical injuries and illnesses, but what about non-physical injuries that affect workers’ mental health?
What is a non-physical injury?
In layman’s terms, “non-physical injuries” are psychiatric conditions caused by one or more experiences in the workplace. A non-physical injury could result from a single incident or ongoing job-related stress. They might not have acute physical symptoms, but mental health conditions can have just as much of an impact as many physical injuries on a person’s ability to perform their job duties.
A common example of a work-related non-physical injury is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Institute of Mental Health defines PTSD as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” While most people experience feelings of fear or panic after a traumatic experience, people who continue to have those feelings for an extended period of time could be suffering from PTSD. Symptoms include:
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Avoidance of activities or places that are reminiscent of the event
Any traumatic experience can lead to PTSD, but the condition seems particularly common in certain jobs. First responders, for example, deal with traumatic events as a matter of course, making them particularly vulnerable.
Does Ohio’s workers comp system cover non-physical injuries?
Ohio workers comp law only covers non-physical injuries in specific situations. Section 4123.01(C)(1) of the Ohio Revised Code states that the term “injury” does not include “psychiatric conditions,” except in two situations:
- Conditions that “have arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant”
- Conditions that have arisen from sexual assault or sexual coercion
When does Ohio’s workers comp provide benefits for non-physical injuries?
Ohio workers comp will cover a non-physical injury if it is the direct result of a covered physical injury. Psychiatric conditions that are not related to a physical injury are not covered.
The Ohio Supreme Court addressed this question in a 2013 ruling, Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co. The plaintiff, a dump truck driver, was involved in an automobile accident in which another vehicle collided with his truck at high speed. The plaintiff was not seriously injured, but he experienced symptoms of PTSD after he learned that the other driver died. The court held that he was not eligible for benefits for his PTSD because the condition resulted from his emotional distress over the accident, not his physical injuries.
Do you need assistance with a worker’s compensation case in Ohio? Our team at Spitler & Williams-Young can advise you of your rights and options, and prepare a legal strategy for your case. Please contact us today at [email protected] or 419-863-2211.