Do You Know the Rule? Nevada Stress-related Injury

                               

Reno, NV (WorkersCompensation.com) -- In Nevada, an employee can collect worker’s compensation benefits for a stress-related injury or disease. But there is a caveat; benefits are not available for a claim for stress that has built up over the course of multiple incidents. 

Thus, with respect to stress-related conditions, Nevada’s worker’s compensation law presents the following dichotomy:

Stress-related Conditions -- Availability of Worker’s Compensation Benefits

Benefits may be Available

The worker’s stress was caused by a discrete, identifiable occurrence. 

For instance, a single shooting by a SWAT team member causes him to develop PTSD. 

Benefits are not Available

The worker’s stress built up over the course of multiple incidents. 

For example, a SWAT team member is involved in several shooting incidents over a few years. After each incident, his stress and PTSD symptoms gradually develop.

As a recent case from Nevada shows, the key for employers, in stress-related disease claims, is to present medical evidence specifically linking the worker’s condition to each incident.

A police department faced that situation in the case of a SWAT team member. The officer was diagnosed with PTSD after he fatally shot a suspect in the face while the latter was holed up in an apartment bathroom. 

In Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dep’t v. Marx, No. 83626-COA (Nev. Ct. App. 11/23/22), the SWAT team member had been involved in several fatal shootings prior to 2018. But it was not until the 2018 incident, according to he and his doctor, that he developed and was diagnosed with PTSD. 

In ruling in the officer’s favor, the court pointed to the officer’s doctor’s opinion stating that the latest incident caused the offier’s PTSD. The court also reasoned that the officer was consistently found to be fit to return to duty after the earlier incidents. It wasn’t until the latest incident, that he was found not to be fit to return to duty.

Significantly, the court also rested its decision on lack of medical evidence from the other side. The employer’s doctors pointed to the other incidents as evidence that the offier’s stress arose from the series of shootings, gradually developing over time. However, the court observed, merely identifying prior incidents was not sufficient to establish that the condition built up over multiple incidents. 

“[M]erely identifying other past shootings involving [the officer] does not constitute sufficient evidence to show that [his] condition was caused by a gradual escalation of mental stress,” the court wrote. Instead, the employer was required to provide evidence showing a causal link between those incidents and the development of PTSD symptoms. The employer failed to do that. 

The appeals court affirmed the district court’s ruling, finding that the officer’s injury was not the result of a gradual mental stimulus but was primarily caused by the 2018 incident, and affirming the officer’s entitlement to benefits.

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