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Monday, March 18, 2013

“Mental-Mental” Workers' Comp Claims Following Connecticut School Shooting Injuries

Today's post comes from guest author Tom Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

Following the Connecticut school shootings, unions representing police and firefighters and school employees have held discussions about laws to expand situations under which worker’s comp benefits would be available for mental health issues. Stress claims have been permitted under most of nations' workers' compensation programs.

Connecticut worker’s compensation law does not provide for “Mental-Mental” claims, which are claims for psychological disabilities that do not stem from an original physical injury. Police officers, firefighters, and school officials do not meet the requirements of Connecticut’s Statute for psychological counseling or time lost benefits in the event they are unable to work because of psychological disability in the wake of the shootings.

Since the mid-1970s Wisconsin has recognized non-traumatic mental injury (“Mental-Mental”) in worker’s compensation. Before 1974, compensable mental injuries were limited to post-traumatic injuries, mental disorders occurring after and due to a physical accident. The statute then defined injury as “mental or physical harm to an employee caused by accident.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court set a new “Extraordinary Stress” standard for compensability, indicating if the mental injury resulted from situation of greater dimensions than the day to day stress, which all employees must experience, benefits and medical expenses could be paid.
The restrictive standard reflected the Court’s worry that paying claims for mental injury without a triggering trauma might “open the floodgates to numerous fraudulent claims of mental injury.”

The floodgates have not opened.  Mental-Mental claims are relatively rare in Wisconsin, due to the “extraordinary stress” requirement.

Read more about stress and workers' compensation

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Physicians who treat terminally ill patients are reporting occupational stress. A recent article on the NY Times blog describes the problem of oncologists who treat cancer patients during end-of-life situations. "A doctor with ...
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Lancent reports that stress at work posses and increased risk for a heart attack. Workers' Compensation benefits are payable if work-related stress is a material cause of a heart condition. "30 214 (15%) of 197 473 participants ...