Glossary Check: Tenn. ‘Mental Injury,’ Presumption for Firefighters

08 Jan, 2024 Frank Ferreri


Gallatin, TN ( -- In Tennessee, "injury" and "personal injury" include "mental injury," which state law defines as a loss of mental faculties or a mental or behavioral disorder, arising primarily out of a compensable physical injury or an identifiable work-related event resulting in a sudden or unusual stimulus.

"Mental injury" does not include a psychological or psychiatric response due to the loss of employment or employment opportunities.

New legislation in the Volunteer State creates a legal presumption that an injury was incurred in the line of duty if a firefighter is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a mental health professional as a result of responding to one or more incidents with at least one of the following determining factors:

+ Directly witnessing the death of a minor, or treating the injury of a minor, who subsequently died before or upon arrival at a hospital emergency department.
+ Directly witnessing an individual whose death involved a serious bodily injury of a nature that shocks the conscience.
+ Responding to an event where there was a victim with a serious bodily injury that shocks the conscience.
+ Responding to an event where a responder, coworker of a responder, or family member of a responder sustained a serious bodily injury or died.

Under the firefighter presumption, the injury is compensable under the Workers' Compensation Law unless it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the post-traumatic stress disorder was caused by non-service-connected risk factors or non-service-connected exposure.

The new legislation applies to a firefighter who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder within one year of the firefighter's final date of employment with the employer fire department.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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