Workers’ Comp may not pay for PTSD

The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that an injured truck driver suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may only receive workers’ compensation benefits for his physical injuries since the cause of his psychiatric condition was the horrific nature of the accident, not the injuries themselves.

The case stemmed from a 2009 motor vehicle accident. While driving a dump truck for the John Jurgenson Company, Shaun Armstrong saw another vehicle rapidly approaching from behind. Fearing the worst, he braced for impact. After the accident, he peered into his mirror only to see fluid spilling out of the vehicles. Afraid they may catch fire; he got out of his truck and called 9-1-1. Then he saw the other driver — bloodied and motionless — Armstrong feared he was dead. At the ER, Armstrong was treated for multiple injuries. He also found out, much to his dismay, the other driver had perished in the accident.

Armstrong applied for, and was granted, workers’ comp benefits for his physical injuries. Then, when he was diagnosed with PTSD, he filed an additional claim. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation approved his claim, which was then challenged by his employer. While no one disputes Armstrong has PTSD, the parties offered differing expert testimony as to the cause of it. Unfortunately for Armstrong, the jury decided that his injuries did not cause his PTSD.

The court came to its decision after parsing a simple phrase, “arisen from injury.” According to Ohio law, the BWC will only pay a claim for a psychiatric condition when it has “arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant.” Writing for the majority, Justice French opined that the injured worker “must establish that his PTSD was causally related to his compensable physical injuries and not simply to his involvement in the accident.” Simply put, the court decided that the injuries themselves must be the cause of the PTSD for it to be covered under workers’ compensation, not just because they both stemmed from the same incident.

Workers’ compensation and other injury claims can be complicated. Our accident attorneys have nearly 50 years of experience helping clients with serious injury cases, filing thousands of claims for compensation. We have the experience, the knowledge and the resources to provide advice and guidance throughout the legal process. We serve clients statewide from offices throughout OhioCall 1-800-ELK-OHIO (1-800-355-6446) to schedule your free consultation. You may also contact us online.

 

Sources:

Workers’ comp need not cover mental-health claim, justices ruleThe Columbus Dispatch, June 5, 2013.

Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co., Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-2237

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