Fort Smith, AR PTSD Workers’ Compensation Attorney
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a surprisingly common condition, and not just for veterans. While veterans who saw active combat are one of the groups with the highest incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, you could also suffer debilitating post-traumatic stress symptoms from abuse, violence, or traumatic accidents. If you were injured on the job or suffered a traumatic workplace accident that left you with symptoms of PTSD that make it hard to work, talk to our Fort Smith PTSD workers’ compensation lawyers today.
The symptoms of PTSD can be severe and debilitating. Proving that your symptoms are linked to a work-related incident is challenging. One way to help increase your odds of obtaining the benefits you need is to retain an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
We strive to help injured workers and workers suffering from other work-related illnesses and conditions seek Workers’ Compensation coverage for their needs. For help with your case, contact our law offices today at (479) 316-0438 to schedule a free legal consultation.
QUALIFYING FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WITH PTSD IN ARKANSAS
Fortunately for many injured workers, you can file for Workers’ Compensation for PTSD. However, to qualify for coverage, you will need to meet a few criteria:
PTSD From Physical Injuries
Arkansas’ Workers’ Compensation Act, under AR Code § 11-9-113(a)(1), requires that “[a] mental injury or illness” must have been the result of a physical injury to get you Workers’ Compensation coverage. This means that if you have PTSD because of an injury, you physically received, you can get compensation – but if the PTSD was caused by something you witnessed or because other people were injured in the accident, you cannot get coverage.
For instance, claims have been denied in cases like Amlease, Inc. v. Kuligowski (1997) where the injured worker had PTSD from killing another driver in an auto accident. Since the PTSD was the result of the other person’s death and not the injuries the worker sustained, the court denied his Workers’ Compensation claim for PTSD. Talk to a lawyer – and your psychologist or psychiatrist – for help understanding the cause of your PTSD and whether your psychological disorder qualifies for workers’ comp.
PTSD From Violence or Crime
Although the Workers’ Compensation Act typically requires you to have a physical injury before it can cover mental disorders like PTSD, there is a specific exception for PTSD from violence or crime. PTSD that comes about because of workplace violence or other crimes committed against you in the workplace should be covered by workers’ compensation even if the PTSD did not result from physical injuries. However, injuries caused by violence or intentional acts fall into exceptions under the workers’ comp rules that may allow you to sue your employer or the perpetrator of the crime instead of relying on workers’ comp. Talk to a lawyer about your best path to compensation.
Definition of PTSD for Workers’ Comp
AR Code § 11-9-113(a)(2) sets out how workers’ compensation defines mental disorders. To have your mental condition qualify for coverage in Arkansas, you must first have a diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist. Your attorney can help you figure out how to get a consultation to get this diagnosis and support your workers’ comp claim.
The statute also says where you can find the definition of mental disorders like PTSD: the DSM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is one of the standard books that psychologists and psychiatrists across the U.S. use to define mental disorders. The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act requires that your mental condition meets the most recent version of the DSM’s definition, which means meeting the DSM-V’s definition of PTSD.
Under the DSM-V, there are multiple requirements for a PTSD diagnosis. Typically, you must first meet an appropriate cause for PTSD, which can include any experience being involved in, witnessing, or hearing about violence, death, injury, or sexual violation. Next, you must have “intrusive” symptoms including at least one of the following:
- Recurring memories of the event that upset you and come without thinking about them
- Severely upsetting dreams relating to the event
- Flashbacks to the event or dissociation
- Distress from triggers related to the event
- Physical reactions to triggers (e.g., sweating, increased heart rate, passing out)
Avoidance of the triggers (thoughts, places, people, etc.) and symptoms relating to your thoughts and behaviors must also be present to afford a PTSD diagnosis, including any of the following symptoms:
- Repressed memories
- Lack of happiness or joy
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Heightened attentiveness to danger
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep problems
If these interfere with your life in a significant way because of the trauma you experienced, you should qualify for a PTSD diagnosis to support a workers’ comp claim.
Proving a PTSD Claim in Fort Smith, Arkansas
If you file a workers’ compensation claim based on work-related PSD, you should anticipate that your employer’s insurance provider will scrutinize it. If you have a history of filing workers’ comp claims, the level of scrutiny will be heightened.
Before filing a claim, you should have a formal diagnosis from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Nonetheless, the insurance company will likely hire an investigator to look into your personal life to verify that your claim and symptoms are genuine. To accomplish this, the insurance company could examine your credit report, criminal history, medical history, and interview your supervisor and coworkers.
To substantiate the severity of your PTSD symptoms, you should ensure that you receive consistent treatment from a mental health specialist. Our Arkansas workers’ comp lawyers strongly advise seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. A diagnosis from your general practitioner will not be as persuasive nor hold the same weight.
For many people, PTSD symptoms might not appear for months or even years after the traumatic event. Under these circumstances, it is very difficult to prove that your symptoms are actually work-related. This is one reason why you should seek treatment as soon as you begin to experience any symptoms instead of waiting until they become debilitating.
Your treating doctor should also carefully document your symptoms and prepare a written statement describing how these symptoms limit or prevent you from working. As stated above, the PTSD diagnosis should come from a trained and experienced mental health professional. However, your primary physician can explain how your PTSD impacts your life. Our Fort Smith, AR workers’ compensation lawyers would also gather statements from your coworkers, friends, and family to help support your claim.
PTSD does not show up on medical tests, so it is critical to provide enough additional evidence to support your claim that your PTSD severely impedes your ability to work. Insurance companies will deny a claim that lacks sufficient medical documentation.
It is also important to comply with any deadlines and procedures. A claim with supporting medical evidence will still be denied if you missed a deadline or failed to report the incident when required.
Third-Party Personal Injury Lawsuits for PTSD in Fort Smith, AR
Arkansas’ Workers’ Compensation law provides a mechanism for injured employees to obtain financial compensation without having to jump through the legal hoops associated with a personal injury lawsuit. Not only is an injured worker not required to prove another person or party’s negligence caused their injury, but they will also typically start receiving their monthly benefits in a few weeks. These advantages come with a price – an injured worker is not allowed to file a personal injury claim against their employer. For many, this seems like a small sacrifice.
However, workers’ comp does not cover all your damages. Typically, the benefits cover your medical costs and a portion of your salary. Through a personal injury lawsuit, a worker who has PTSD could receive their full salary, including the money they would have earned. Perhaps more importantly, a person with PTSD could recover for their emotional suffering and mental distress.
The good news is that the prohibition against filing a lawsuit only includes your employer. If a third party contributed to your injury or caused your PTSD, you could file a personal injury claim against them.
Suing for PTSD
Once our Fort Smith personal injury attorneys determine that a third party could be liable, you will have to establish you are suffering from mental anguish by demonstrating you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, grief, fear, or other emotional states that have a long-lasting negative impact.
As with any personal injury lawsuit, to prevail in a claim based on PTSD, our Fort Smith PTSD lawyers will have to establish that a duty of care existed, the defendant’s conduct violated the duty, the conduct caused your PTSD, and you suffered quantifiable harm.
It is important to remember that PTSD is an actual injury. However, proving a mental health diagnosis is more challenging than proving a physical injury. Unlike a fracture, PTSD does not appear on an X-ray or other diagnostic tests ordinarily used as evidence of an injury’s severity.
Proving PTSD in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Medical documentation is critical in a PTSD lawsuit. However, as stated above, PTSD does not appear on an MRI or other objective medical test. Our Fort Smith personal injury attorneys will have to turn to expert medical witnesses to piece things together. This type of evidence is also vital if our office is appealing a denied workers’ compensation claim.
A medical expert will testify to what they believe the evidence shows based on the experience and knowledge in their field of expertise. The average jury member lacks the qualifications or experience to determine whether a plaintiff has PTSD. The expert witness will piece the evidence together for them, connecting the dots. An expert witness cannot just say that they believe you have PTSD. They must provide evidence and explain it in such a way that the jury can make a determination whether they believe you suffer from PTSD.
In some cases, our Fort Smith PTSD attorneys rely on a plaintiff’s psychiatrist or psychologist to serve as an expert witness regarding the diagnosis and a witness that presents facts as to what symptoms they personally observed.
Coverage for Workers’ Compensation for PTSD in Arkansas
Since a claim for workers’ comp for PTSD must have a physical injury as the basis, you will likely already qualify for workers’ comp. from the injury alone. Many people who suffer PTSD from a physical injury suffer very serious injuries, such as paralysis, traumatic amputation, or brain injuries. These injuries, even without PTSD, can often lead to workers’ compensation to cover all medical expenses, lost wages while you recover, and future lost wages you will miss because of a permanent injury. Lost wages are covered at 66 2/3% of your average weekly wage before the incident.
If your injury was not severe enough to receive workers’ compensation but still caused severe PTSD that keeps you from working, you may still be able to receive compensation for the medical and psychiatric care costs related to the PTSD and missed wages (at the same 66 2/3% rate).
Call Our Fort Smith PTSD Workers’ Comp Lawyers
If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD after being involved in a workplace accident or after being the victim of violence or a serious crime in the workplace, talk to our Fort Smith PTSD workers’ compensation attorney today. Our team of experienced lawyers and staff might be able to help you fight to get you qualified for coverage. Your workers’ comp benefits may cover your medical and psychiatric costs as well as support you while you are unable to work. For a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (479) 316-0438.