Though the language in the Workers’ Compensation Act suggests that psychological work injuries are compensable, many states interpret the language more strictly than others. In those states, psychological injuries such as stress and anxiety are not compensable. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is more forgiving than others. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry details when and what type of psychological injuries are compensable under PA’s workers’ comp laws.
Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law recognizes three types of psychological work injuries: Physical/mental injury, mental/physical injury and mental/mental injury. A physical/mental injury occurs when a worker develops a mental injury as the result of a physical-related work injury. A mental/physical injury is the result of a mental condition that manifests in a physical ailment. For instance, extreme work stress can cause high blood pressure and, if unchecked, heart disease. Pure psychological trauma, or a mental/mental injury, stem from stressful working environments or single, traumatic events.
To receive compensation for a physical/mental injury, you must show that your physical work injury resulted in psychological duress. It is important to note that the physical injury need not be disabling. Rather, you must only prove that the physical stimulus resulted in an adverse mental condition.
To prove a mental/physical injury, you must provide medical documentation proving that work-related psychological duress or stress manifested in a physical ailment. The courts also look for two common elements in this type of claim: 1) Psychological stimulus that causes the physical condition, which continues even after the mental stimulus disappears and 2) Disability or loss of earning potential, either of which is the result of the physical manifestation of the mental stimulus.
Mental/mental injuries are the most difficult to prove, as the burden of proof is very heavy for the claimant. At least, this is the case unless you can point to a single, traumatizing event in the workplace. If a single, traumatizing event did not occur, you must show that abnormal or illegal work conditions over a long period of time caused your mental condition.
You should not use the contents of this article as legal advice. The article is for educational purposes only.