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

Ohio launches new variable speed limit signs to make work zones safer

Summer is right around the corner. That means besides warm weather and having the kids home from school, we should expect to see lots of orange barrels on the roads.

Public safety officials are urging Ohio drivers to slow down in work zones. Over the past decade, the number of work zone crashes in Ohio hasn’t been below 5,000.VSL-Photo-2

National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week is April 15 through April 21. As part of the week, the state Transportation Department is trying out a new piece of equipment that could help reduce the number of crashes in construction work zones. The number of work-zone accidents increased to 5,188 in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. Sixteen people died in Ohio work zone accidents in 2011.

ODOT is piloting the new safety weapon, known as variable speed limit trailers. The portable devices come with technology that can be programmed to display a safer, slower speed, but only on the stretches of roadway where construction workers are present.

Around the state, there are 10 construction projects this year that will pilot the use of variable speed limit signs:

  • Franklin County – Resurfacing and pavement repair on Interstate 71
  • Henry County – Resurfacing a four-lane highway on U.S. Routes 6/24
  • Portage County – Spot pavement repairs on Interstate 76
  • Fairfield/Licking Counties – Bridge maintenance and repairs at various locations on Interstate 70
  • Madison County – Pavement repairs at various locations on Interstate 70
  • Montgomery County – Pavement repairs at various locations on U.S. Route 35 west of Interstate 75
  • Shelby County – Pavement repairs at various locations on Interstate 75
  • Ross/Pike Counties – Resurfacing of U.S. Route 23
  • Two projects in Athens County – Resurfacing of U.S. Routes 33 and 32/50

An ODOT analysis found that 56,945 vehicle crashes occurred in Ohio work zones from 2003 to 2012. Of those crashes, 20,590 happened when construction workers were present.

The top causes of work zone crashes are speed, following too closely, failure to control and improper lane changes. All four of these are easily preventable if drivers would just use a little more caution. Slow down, keep your eyes on the road and leave a little extra room between you and the car in front of you when you are driving through construction zones. And if the construction is in an area you drive through as part of your daily commute, make sure to plan extra time into your drive or find an alternate route.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a work zone accident, let the personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our free, no-obligation online consultation form.

New laws tackle social media password issue

By Arthur Elk

Last year, we started hearing about a new privacy concern for employees and even job seekers. News stories were popping up everywhere about bosses and interviewers asking for social media passwords so they could see what people were posting online.

At that time, it was obvious that existing laws in most states didn’t cover this issue. Unfortunately, it always takes time for the law to catch up with technology, and this was another case of that happening.

In 2013, five states have new laws going into effect that will make it illegal for employers to demand social networking passwords or non-public online account information from their employees or job applicants.

California and Illinois had laws go into effect on Jan. 1 and Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware have new laws taking effect later this year. Michigan enacted a similar ban last year, making a total of six states with a ban.

Other states are also considering similar Facebook password laws that will protect an employee’s or potential employee’s personal information.

I am glad to see state legislatures taking action to protect workers’ privacy. No employer should be able to force them to give up their personal, private information.

Tip: Make sure that your social media privacy settings are at the level you want them. If you don’t have them set properly, anyone may be able to see things that you only intended for your family and friends to see. And then no law will help you.

What do you think about these laws? Should employers be able to ask an employee or job applicant for their social media passwords? Please let us know by commenting on this post.

Ohio Employment Claims Lawyers: Illinois becomes 2nd state blocking employers from asking for social media logins

State lawmakers and the federal government are taking steps to stop employers from improperly snooping in employees’ and potential employees’ social media accounts. The employment claims lawyers of Elk & Elk believe laws must be in place to protect individuals’ privacy.

Earlier this week, Illinois became the second state to pass a law that makes it illegal for employers to ask job applicants for passwords to their online profiles.

Some companies and government agencies have started asking for passwords to log in to prospective employees’ accounts on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Many have criticized the practice as a serious invasion of privacy.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where several students claimed that their bosses’ online snooping had caused them to lose out on jobs or forced them to deactivate their profiles.

Quinn said that it was important that the law keep up with technology. “We’re dealing with 21st-century issues … Privacy is a fundamental right. I believe that and I think we need to fight for that,” Quinn said.

Rep. La Shawn Ford, sponsor of the bill, said, that penalties in any successful civil suit would start at between $100 and $300 but would likely end up costing employers much more.

Maryland is the only other state with a similar law, but several other states are considering bans, including Washington, Delaware and New Jersey.

The Illinois law protects both current and prospective employees. However, the law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2013, does not stop bosses from viewing information that isn’t restricted by privacy settings on the social media site.

Some research shows that as many as 75 percent of employers look at an applicant’s online profile before offering them a job. One-third of employers have turned down applicants based on what was found in those searches.

Employers asking employees or potential employees for their social media passwords is a gross invasion of privacy. While an employer has the right to vet any potential employees, there has to be a line maintained between what is public and what is private. There are limits about what questions an interviewer may ask an applicant. Is there any reason similar limits shouldn’t exist in cyberspace?

But no matter what the law may say about your privacy, it is always smart to be cautious about what you post on social media sites. You never know who may end up seeing it. Be smart and make good choices.