Workplace injuries are not limited to physical harm. Workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania for mental health injuries. Last month, a state appeals court unanimously ruled that a worker with preexisting depression suffered a workplace injury that aggravated her mental health condition.
Attack and injury
The claimant, a phlebotomist for a medical center, was attacked by a patient in 2009. She received workers’ compensation for her pinched nerve caused by this attack.
The medical center sought to terminate her compensation benefits in 2015. The claimant, however, said that this injury worsened her preexisting major depressive disorder. Specifically, the injury from this attack led to depression, anxiousness, and her hospitalization for suicidal thoughts. She did not see a psychiatrist until this work-related injury.
A psychiatrist testified that she became depressed from the chronic pain attributed to the workplace injury. The medical center’s psychiatrist testified that she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety before this injury.
The workers’ compensation judge ruled in the phlebotomist’s favor and allowed her benefits to continue. The WCJ found that the treatment she received the year before the injury was for migraine headaches. Also, the psychiatrists testified that a serious injury could compound pre-existing depression.
This decision was appealed to Commonwealth Court. This court also accepted the psychiatrist’s testimony that the work injury caused the claimant’s severe depression and the related pain caused the depression. Before the attack, according to the court, she was able to work.
The court also agreed that the medical center’s psychiatrist admitted that a tragic event can worsen depression. The inability to do continue to do things after suffering an injury, according to that psychiatrist, could also cause depression and anxiety.
Injured worker may lose important rights if they do not seek legal representation in workers’ compensation proceedings. An attorney can help obtain evidence of injuries, including mental harm, and pursue their rights.