There are many differences between physical injuries and mental injuries. This article discusses what you need to know if you have a work-related mental health injury.
What Mental Health Injuries Are Compensable Under the Workers’ Compensation Act?
There are only three types of mental injuries that are compensable under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act:
Physical-mental injuries occur when someone has a physical injury that causes the employee to also experience a mental health injury. For example, if a Police Officer is shot by a suspect and, as a result of the encounter, the Police Officer experiences a flesh wound and develops PTSD, then the Police Officer could claim both a physical injury (flesh wound) and a physical-mental injury (PTSD).
Physical-mental injuries also include consequential psychological injuries. For example, if a welder falls from scaffolding while welding at a construction site, and becomes a paraplegic as a result of the fall, and later develops depression as a result of the sudden loss of use of his limbs, then the welder could claim both a physical injury (loss of use or function of his limbs) a physical-mental injury (depression), which would also be considered a consequential psychological injury because the psychological injury was a direct consequence of the physical injury.
Mental-physical injuries occur when a mental injury like chronic stress, causes a physical reaction that results in an injury or disability. For example, if a Firefighter develops a heart-condition as a result of the extreme stress of his/her work, then the Firefighter could claim a mental-physical injury if he/she can prove that the work-related stress (the mental injury) was the direct cause of the work-related physical injury (heart condition). It should be noted that the mental injury must be extreme and that these cases are very difficult to establish.
Mental-mental injuries occur when mental stimuli result in a mental health injury. PTSD is the only compensable mental-metal injury under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, and it only applies to dates of injury on or after October 1, 2013.
Changes in the Law Related to PTSD
On October 1, 2013, PTSD became a compensable work-related injury. In order to make a workers’ compensation claim for PTSD, an injured worker must be diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist in accordance with the most recent edition of the DSM, or Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. The DSM-V is the fifth edition and the most recent edition to date. The DSM-V lists specific criteria that must be met to establish a diagnosis of PTSD.
On January 1, 2019, the PTSD presumption went into effect. The effect of the PTSD presumption is that, if certain criteria are met, a first responder who develops PTSD is presumed to have developed PTSD as a result of his/her work activities. The PTSD presumption is a rebuttable presumption, not an absolute presumption, meaning that when the presumption applies, the burden of proof shift from the employee to the employer/insurer. When the PTSD presumption applies, the employer/insurer must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employee’s PTSD is not caused by his/her work activities.
What is the Difference Between an IME and an IPE?
An Independent Medical Examination (IME) is the general term used to describe an examination by the employer/insurer’s medical expert. An Independent Psychological Examination (IPE) is the specific term used to describe a psychological examination by the employer/insurer’s medical expert. Essentially, an IPE is a type of IME, but an IME is not necessarily an IPE.
If you have work-related PTSD, then you may be required to attend an Independent Psychological Evaluation. If you have a physical-mental injury or a consequential psychological injury, then you may be required to attend both an Independent Medical Evaluation (to evaluate your physical injury) and an Independent Psychological Evaluation (to evaluate your mental health injury).
A physical-mental injury is a physical injury that also results in a psychological injury. For example, if a Firefighter is burned while responding to a fatal house fire, and the Firefighter develops PTSD as a result of the traumatic exposure, then he/she may have both a physical injury and a physical-mental injury (psychological injury resulting from the same incident that caused the physical injury).
Consequential Psychological Injury
A consequential psychological injury is a psychological injury that occurs because of the physical injury. For example, if a line-worker in a factory loses his/her hand in a machinery accident at work, then he/she may experience a psychological injury (ex. depression) due to losing his/her hand.
The Difficulties of Proving an Invisible Injury.
One of the challenges of sustaining a mental health injury is that unlike a physical injury, mental health injuries are invisible. They cannot be diagnosed with an MRI or X-ray imaging. They can only be diagnosed by trained mental health professionals. As a result, an employee who has sustained a mental health injury, will often be required to attend an Independent Psychological Evaluation (IPE).
If you believe that you have sustained a mental health injury, it is imperative that you contact a lawyer who is experienced handling mental health claims. Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. has represented more Law Enforcement Officers, Firefighters, Corrections Officers, and EMTs with mental health injuries than any other plaintiff’s law firm in Minnesota. Contact us today for a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL, no-obligation consultation by calling 1-877-746-5680.