When most people think of workers’ compensation, they imagine a physical injury sustained on the job, such as a broken bone or a strain from lifting. However, mental health conditions can also be covered under Virginia workers’ compensation, although they are often overlooked or misunderstood by employers and insurance companies.
The General Rule: Mental Distress is Not Covered
In Virginia, mental distress and other similar conditions are generally not covered by workers’ compensation. This means that an employee cannot file a claim if they are experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that are not related to their job. While this may seem unfair, it is important to remember that workers’ compensation benefits are intended to compensate employees for injuries or illnesses that arise out of and in the course of employment. Mental health conditions that are not work-related do not fall under this scope.
Exceptions to the Rule
That being said, there are some situations in which a mental health condition may be covered by Virginia workers’ compensation. For example:
- High-Stress Occupations: Certain occupations can cause a high level of stress, which can lead to the development of mental health conditions. For example, law enforcement officers and firefighters often experience traumatic events that can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If an employee can prove that their mental health condition was caused by the unique conditions of their job, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Mental Stress Caused by a Work-Related Injury or Illness: If an employee sustains a work-related injury or illness that leads to mental distress, they may be able to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. For example, if a construction worker falls from a scaffold and suffers a traumatic brain injury, they may experience depression or anxiety as a result of their physical limitations or the stress of their situation.
- Mental Stress Due to a Single Specific Incident While Working: Even if an employee’s job is not inherently high-stress, they may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they experience a single, specific stressor while working. For example, if a bank teller is held at gunpoint during a robbery, they may develop PTSD as a result.
What Evidence is Needed to Support a Claim?
In order to file a successful workers’ compensation claim for a mental health condition, an employee will need to provide evidence that their condition is work-related. This can include:
- Medical records that document the employee’s diagnosis and treatment for their condition
- Testimony from medical experts who can explain the relationship between the employee’s job (or work-related injury) and their mental health condition
- Evidence that the employee’s job duties (or work-related injury) caused them prolonged, unusual, or extraordinary stress
- Evidence that the employee’s job duties involved a higher-than-usual likelihood of exposure to a traumatic event or situation
How an Attorney Can Help You
Navigating the workers’ compensation system can be difficult on your own, especially when it comes to mental health claims. An experienced attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to support your claim, communicate with insurance companies on your behalf, and represent your interests in court if necessary. If you are struggling with a mental health condition that you believe is related to your job, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
Workers Compensation Attorneys in Richmond, VA
At Reinhardt | Harper | Davis, our skilled workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping injured workers in Virginia. We understand the challenges and frustrations that come with navigating the complex legal landscape of workers’ compensation claims. Our team can provide guidance and support to help ensure that our clients receive the medical treatment and financial compensation they deserve following a workplace injury.
Call us today at (804) 294-2966 for a free consultation.