pennsylvania 40430 640

Do You Know the Rule? Pa. Compensability of Psychological Injuries

05 Feb, 2024 Chris Parker

pennsylvania 40430 640

Pittsburgh, PA ( -- Not every injury is readily apparent. Some injuries may manifest as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. In Pennsylvania, employees seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a mental injury arising from something stressful at work will have to show that the injury was caused by an abnormal working condition.

Categories of Psychological Injury

The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act places psychological injuries into three distinct categories:

Mental/physical injuryA psychological stimulus causes a physical injury. For example, a stressful event at work causes the claimant to have a heart attack. The claimant will have to provide medical documentation showing that the mental stimulus at work caused the physical injury.
Physical/mental injuryA physical stimulus causes a psychic injury. The physical injury does not have to be a disability; it is enough if the injury results in a need for medical treatment. Generally, the claimant need not demonstrate that the injury was caused by an abnormal working condition.
Mental/mental injuryA psychological stimulus causes a psychic injury. The mental injury must have been caused by an objectively abnormal working condition. It is not sufficient if the claimant subjectively believed or imagined the condition to be abnormal.

Mental/mental Injury -- Abnormal Working Condition

This category of injury is especially hard to establish. It is not enough to show that employment events precipitated a psychiatric injury; the claimant must prove the events to be abnormal. The claimant will need to show that an abnormal working condition caused the mental injury.

An abnormal working condition is one that is extraordinarily unusual and distressing. It can be a single event. Or it can be a condition that continues for a long period of time. The condition, however, must be one that is not normally experienced or anticipated by employees in the claimant's line of work.

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For example, a state trooper is likely to have a job that is by nature stressful and dangerous. It might not be abnormal for a state trooper to witness a dead body in the aftermath of an accident, in which case any PTSD stemming from the incident might not be considered a compensable psychological injury.

Whether something constitutes an abnormal condition also depends on the judge hearing the case, since there is no bright line rule on the subject. Generally, however, getting fired or experiencing perceived bullying at work isn’t sufficient.

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