Ohio lawmakers reconsider issue of work-related psychological injuries

A new bill would let Ohio emergency responders seek workers’ compensation for PTSD even if they did not suffer physical injuries during the traumatic event.

It's not uncommon for workers in Columbus to suffer from anxiety, depression or other psychological issues because of events that occur during their jobs. Often, these illnesses prove persistent and even debilitating. In Ohio, psychiatric injuries often are not eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would recognize posttraumatic stress disorder among certain workers as a compensable injury.

Evaluating mental injuries

Currently, Ohio workers can seek compensation for psychological injuries that arise due to a physical work-related injury. According to The Toledo Blade, psychological injuries resulting from forced sexual activity may also be compensable. However, workers cannot seek compensation for psychological injuries that occur during a situation that does not also involve physical injury.

Court precedents have also limited the circumstances in which PTSD relating to a physical injury is compensable. In 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on the case of a truck driver who was injured in an accident. According to materials from the court, another driver died during the crash. As a result, the truck driver experienced severe emotional distress and sought workers' compensation for PTSD. However, since the PTSD did not arise directly from the driver's physical injury, the claim was denied.

Under these state laws and precedents, Ohio workers are often precluded from seeking benefits for work-related psychological injuries. However, lawmakers are now considering making an exception to this policy for emergency responders.

Proposed legal changes

The Toledo Blade reports that the bill would allow emergency responders to seek workers' compensation for PTSD that is unrelated to a physical injury. Workers would not have to prove that the PTSD developed as a result of another injury. Even in cases in which no physical injury occurred, workers could still make workers' compensation claims. The bill would include the following workers:

  • Firefighters
  • Police and peace officers
  • Emergency medical technicians

Critics have worried that this change would increase the cost of providing workers' compensation insurance for public employees. Due to this concern, the bill may ultimately fail to pass. Still, if the measure succeeds, it could help many workers receive needed compensation. Nationally, about 18 percent of emergency responders seek compensation for PTSD. The number of employees who suffer from psychological injuries and fail to seek compensation may be even greater.

Addressing workplace injuries

Unfortunately, at present, securing compensation for psychological injuries may be highly difficult for workers in Ohio. However, compensation may be available if workers prove the psychological injury stemmed from a physical injury. Similarly, workers who suffered mental injuries in conjunction with physical injuries can at least pursue compensation for their physical ailments.

Workers who have suffered from any form of work-related injury should consider meeting with a workers' compensation attorney. An attorney may be able to help an injured worker understand his or her rights and legal options.

Keywords: workers' compensation, disability, benefits