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Do You Know the Rule? Ill. Workers’ Right to PTSD Benefits

24 Jul, 2023 Chris Parker

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Springfield, IL ( -- Employers in Illinois may be responsible for paying workers’ compensation benefits for an employee with PTSD, but only under certain conditions.

First, as with all injuries eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must have acquired the condition through his job. That is, he must have been injured in the course and scope of employment.

However, the employee need not sustain any physical injury during the event. Merely witnessing an extreme event may entitle the employee to benefits. See Moran v. the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, No. 1-15-1366 WC (Ill. App. Ct. 07/29/16).

Basic Requirements for Claim

At minimum, the employee will have to show the following:

--> He has been diagnosed with PTSD;
--> There is evidence that he developed PTSD as a result of a traumatic event at work; and
--> The condition negatively impacts the ability of the employee to do his job.

Traumatic Event

To demonstrate that the event was traumatic, the worker will likely have to show that it was an extraordinary event—the type of event that didn’t normally occur in his job. For example, for a police officer, chasing a speeding car likely would not be sufficiently unusual. Getting into a shootout in which a fellow officer is shot, however, would likely be considered traumatic for the same officer.

The worker will likely have to show that the event caused extreme emotional shock.

Employer’s Defenses

Every case is different and applicable defenses will vary depending on the facts. By way of example, an employer who believes the employee does not have job-related PTSD might point to evidence such as the following:

--> The absence of incident reports or witness statements concerning the traumatic nature of the incident.
--> The employee has preexisting PTSD as a result of events that occurred outside of work, in a prior job (such as a job as a first responder), or while serving in the military.
--> The employee didn’t take time off from work after the incident.
--> The employee does not have a diagnosis of PTSD from a psychiatrist.
--> The employee has a PTSD diagnosis, but he is not receiving mental health treatment, although he can afford it.
--> The employee has a PTSD diagnosis but spent very little time being examined by the doctor who made the diagnosis.

Potential Workers’ Compensation Benefits

A worker who has developed PTSD in the course and scope of employment may be entitled to:

(1) Medical treatment: Individuals who suffer from PTSD have a psychological condition. But the condition can also involve physical symptoms, some of them quite serious.

(2) Counseling: An individual with PTSD will very likely require substantial mental health treatment, including psychological counseling.

(3) Lost wages: An employee who is suffering from debilitating PTSD effects, such as overwhelming anxiety or depression, may lose work time.

Employer’s Other Options – Providing Psychiatric Testimony

An employer who genuinely believes the employee does not have PTSD, will likely have to provide the testimony of a psychiatrist or psychologist who has closely examined the employee and reached the same conclusion.

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