Feeling stressed out is an unfortunate experience, but for the most part, it’s a natural reaction that most employed people will feel now and again. However, in some rare cases, stress can lead to a chronic manifestation of physical symptoms like insomnia, lowered immune responses, depression, stomach pains (like ulcers), chest pain, and the like. And in even rarer cases, this stress can cause impairment as serious as PTSD. If you suspect your work stress is directly related to a mental health disorder or an inability to function, it may be in your best interest to look into workers’ compensation.
Prepare to Get Stressed . . . About Stress
The good news is that many states will allow you to seek workers’ compensation for stress-related injuries. The bad news is that these cases are extremely difficult to prove because their physical manifestations aren’t as clear-cut as say slipping on a dangerous floor and breaking a bone.
In a New Jersey case (Knight v. Audubon Savings Bank) about work-related stress, the court found that since most jobs have some degree of stress, the petitioner must not only show that their stress was abnormal for their sector, but that their workplace environment was truly the cause and that all other external sources were ruled out. Cases of permanent impairment also hold more weight than those that can be easily fixed if the petitioner is removed from the source of stress.
Since the ruling on these cases can be well . . . stressful, hiring a Boston work comp lawyer may be in your best interest since he or she can help you figure out if your case is worth pursuing.
Some Steps To Success
1. Document and Report
If you haven’t been keeping documentation of physical or mental manifestations of your stress, start now. And be sure to report these symptoms as soon as you can to your work manager. If you don’t make a record with your manager in a certain amount of time (typically about 30 days), you may not be able to file your claim.
Since stress can build and get gradually worse over time, you still need to report it to your manager ASAP if you think it was work-related. In fact, your report may help the manager develop some strategies for you to lessen your stress levels.
2. Get an Impartial Exam
If you decide to follow through with your claim, you will need to set up an impartial exam with your state workers’ compensation agency. During this exam, a physician will be selected at random from a list to examine your condition. This is an important exam to follow through on since the doctor will be considered unbiased since they were chosen by the state.
3. Develop a Rapport with Your Doctor
Since most stress claims need to be supported with a doctor’s testimony, it is vital that you develop a good working relationship with your physician. Your doctor may use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to establish if you have a long-term impairment. He or she will also test you and give you a “Global Assessment of Functioning” (GAF) rating and a “Whole Person Impairment” (WPI) rating.
Not only will you need these diagnostic facts, but you will need to prove that these facts were caused by your job. So you will need to gather the following:
- performance reviews
- a developmental history
- documents of personal problems outside of work
- depositions (e.g. manager and/or co-worker testimony)
- interviews from friends and family members
If you think your stress has caused you undue harm, please give us call toll free at (617) 379-0016 or send us an email for a free case evaluation.