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Mental Health and Workers’ Comp

Doctor or psychiatrist consulting and diagnostic examining stressful woman patient on obstetric - gynecological female illness, or mental health in medical clinic or hospital healthcare service center

Not all injuries are external, and not all harm is physical. In the modern era, physicians and lawmakers understand that mental health issues are very real, and they can be caused by external factors. Depression, anxiety disorders, and several other conditions can result from traumatic events and external pressures, including troublesome workplace environments.

If you do suffer from a mental health issue, and that issue is impacting your ability to work, what are your options? Does California workers’ compensation law cover mental health issues? Continue reading to learn about mental health and California workers’ comp. If you have a mental health concern, or if you’ve otherwise suffered an injury or illness in the workplace, call our diligent California workers’ comp attorney for help building your case.

California Workers’ Comp Covers Mental Health Issues

In California, workers’ compensation covers any injury or illness sustained on the job–whether the injury was physical or mental. Mental health issues that arise in connection with a physical injury are somewhat easier to demonstrate (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder), but workers’ comp also covers conditions that are purely psychological. Purely mental workplace injuries are often referred to as “stress claims” or “mental-mental” claims (as opposed to mental-physical claims). When stressful conditions at work lead to a mental health issue, the injured worker has the right to seek compensation.

California law recognizes the severity and debilitating nature of mental health issues. Severe stress or anxiety can prevent a worker from doing their job just as effectively as a physical injury. Mental health injuries are, however, treated a bit differently from physical injuries.

How to Prove a Mental Health Workers’ Comp Claim

Mental health injuries are considered injuries for the purposes of workers’ compensation in California. If the worker can demonstrate that their mental health condition resulted from work or workplace conditions, at least in part, they can seek workers’ compensation.

Mental and physical injuries are treated differently under the law, however, because of the nature of psychological conditions. It’s more difficult to conduct an objective test to identify a psychological condition (unlike a blood test or x-ray), and psychological conditions are more likely to result from a combination of different factors in a person’s life, both inside and outside the workplace.

In order to obtain workers’ compensation in California for a purely psychological condition, the worker must establish all of the following:

  • The worker has been diagnosed with a “mental disorder” under accepted scientific and medical procedures;

  • The mental disorder has caused the worker to experience disability and/or require medical treatment (i.e., the worker must have had to miss work or been rendered unable to perform certain workplace tasks);

  • The worker must have worked for their employer for at least six continuous months, unless the condition arose as a result of a sudden, extraordinary condition at work (such as an accident, an assault, or severe harassment);

  • The worker must prove that “actual events of employment” were more than 50% responsible for the mental health condition (work was the “predominant” cause of the mental disorder). The standard is a bit lower if the mental disorder resulted from violence at work.

If a worker can prove all of these elements, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

If you suffer a work-related mental illness or injury, you need knowledgeable, experienced legal help to prove your claims. The seasoned California workers’ comp legal team at Invictus Law is ready to help. We’re board-certified specialists in workers’ compensation. You don’t have to pay unless we recover on your behalf. Call us today for a consultation.

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