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Did your job cause psychological trauma? You may qualify for workers' compensation

Workers' compensation is not just for people who have experienced a physical injury at work. If your work has caused severe psychological trauma, you may also be eligible for workers' compensation.

Under California's labor code, you may qualify for workers' compensation if:

  • Your condition can be found in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
  • Your job was at least 51 percent responsible for your psychiatric injury
  • You have worked at your job for at least six months (the six months do not need to be continuous)

Because psychiatric injuries rarely have obvious physical signs, it can be challenging to prove these points. As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof, which means you need to provide adequate evidence that you have a DSM-IV disability and that your job is responsible for it. It is significantly more difficult to prove that your stressful job caused your anxiety than it is to tie your condition to a specific event - such as witnessing a criminal event - or threats you have faced, such as threats of abuse.

Many times, psychological injuries go hand-in-hand with demonstrable physical injuries. When combined, these injuries can make a stronger workers' compensation case.

Exception to the rule: Emotional distress for legal personnel actions

Were you criticized for your work? Did you get passed over for a promotion? Were you fired due to your own actions, or laid off because of your company's financial situation? Have you become stressed because of your workers' compensation claim?

You will not be able to bring a workers' compensation claim for emotional distress caused by legal personnel actions. This is not a way to "get back" at your employer for something they did to you. Instead, it is a way to get compensation for an injury caused by your job duties.

The law is complex, but not insurmountable

California is an employee-friendly state, including in its workers' comp laws. While it may be difficult to prove your psychiatric workers' compensation case, it isn't impossible. To find out if your case qualifies, speak with an attorney.

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