Stress is a part of life – especially in a day and age where we’re never really away from our jobs. Many people literally take work home with them, and it’s difficult to ever find a chance to relax and unwind. As a result, many workers start to break down mentally, physically, and socially. You may be wondering: does workers’ compensation cover stress?
Yes – but It Depends
Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, but generally, you can file a workers’ compensation claim for physical damages caused by work-related stress. As with any other claim, you’ll need to collect evidence to prove your job has negatively affected your wellbeing. Before going further, here’s a brief overview of the types of stress-related injuries that your policy may cover:
- Physical stress. Continuous stress and strain can lead to long-term problems. For example, if a job requires extensive typing, an individual may qualify for coverage related to carpel tunnel syndrome. The same is true for any kind of physical activity and subsequent stress, from moving boxes to extensive walking or constant sitting.
- Emotional stress. This is harder to prove and thus harder to secure compensation. However, emotional stress is covered in certain states. To distinguish emotional trauma solely related to work (and not your home or social life), the condition must be carefully documented. An example would be if unreasonably negative emotional stress – or even intentional stress – is placed on you at work.
The Legal Options at Your Disposal
Remember that you normally can’t file a lawsuit for these claims, as companies who offer workers’ compensation are protected from such actions. To review the legal options at your disposal, speak with your human resources department or meet with a local West Virginia personal injury attorney. This is the only way to receive advice tailored to your specific circumstances. In general, you can expect to file a claim, have it reviewed and inspected in a reasonable amount of time, and accept a payout or dispute a denial.
During your recovery, you’re entitled to the amount you would have earned while working. This includes weekly compensation as well as any damages related to permanent impairment, medical treatment payments, and vocational rehabilitation. Your employer may also be required to actively help you assimilate to the workplace, such as providing ergonomic equipment and making other small adjustments to support your recovery.
Successfully Filing a Stress-Related Claim
Evidence is a major factor in these claims. Start by telling a manager or human resources specialist about the problem, and record your condition and progress in a journal. Your company should have resources available to help manage your stress, make the adjustments necessary to optimize your work flow, or file a claim. Taking advantage of these provisions is in the business’ best interests, and it’s the best way to preserve your mental and emotional wellbeing.
As you collect evidence, consider speaking to coworkers and other witnesses who may verify the conditions that have caused your anxiety. They may have experienced similar issues, and their accounts will likely support your claim and streamline the process. You must also document when and how you’re experiencing stress at work as well as any changes that have been made to improve your condition.
Even if you prove you have work-related stress that workers’ compensation should cover, there’s a long road ahead of you. What’s a fair amount for these damages? And how can the workplace be improved to enhance your work life? Start by communicating your needs clearly with your employer. If you encounter problems during the claims filing process or your needs aren’t being met, consider reaching out to a lawyer for more information. The attorneys at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC is standing by to answer your questions about workers’ compensation in West Virginia. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.