PTSD and Workers’ Compensation Claims in SC
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating illness that can arise from being involved in or witnessing a horrible event. Though PTSD is commonly associated with military service members, workers in all industries are at risk of developing the disorder.
In South Carolina, employees with work-related PTSD are eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover their medical expenses and a portion of their lost income. But these claims are rarely straightforward and denials are common.
You don’t have to go through the stress of applying for benefits alone. Let Stewart Law Offices take the burden off of you. Our trusted South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys can handle your claim from start to finish.
Learn more about your rights by calling us or using this online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that people sometimes develop after going through a scary, shocking, or dangerous experience. Traumatic situations can cause anyone to become afraid and trigger their body’s natural “fight or flight” response. These built-in physical instincts are important, as they are intended to protect people from potential dangers.
Many people recover from the fight or flight feeling once the danger has passed. But individuals who suffer from PTSD continue to experience feelings of fear and stress even after they are no longer in danger.
PTSD is much more common than people think. Around 7 or 8 people out of 100 will develop the disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Center for PTSD. There’s no way to tell who will be affected and who won’t, even among those who experienced the same trauma. Some factors that may play a role include the type of support the person had after the event, if there was additional stress after the trauma, and if the survivor had a history of mental illness or substance abuse.
South Carolina Workers’ Comp Coverage for PTSD
The South Carolina workers’ compensation system allows employees that have suffered job-related injuries to seek compensation for their medical expenses, reimbursement for their lost wages, and other disability benefits. However, claiming these benefits for PTSD is complicated.
South Carolina’s workers’ compensation statute clearly states that in order to receive benefits, an employee must have sustained a physical injury. The cause of the injury must have also been extraordinary and unusual in comparison to the normal work environment. This might include witnessing a catastrophic event, such as a co-worker’s death after falling from a scaffold, or being exposed to a life-threatening workplace accident, such as a building collapse or explosion.
Under Section 42-1-160(B) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, mental injuries such as PTSD that arise as a result of employment and that are not accompanied by physical harm can be considered personal injuries if the worker can meet two specific requirements. Employees must provide compelling evidence that shows:
The work conditions that caused the mental injury were extraordinary and unusual when compared to normal working conditions.
There is a medical link between the stressful working conditions and the mental injury.
What Can Cause Work-Related PTSD?
PTSD can arise from any type of occupational event in which a person became fearful for his or her own life. No job is immune from potentially traumatic events. However, some occupations place a person at higher risk for the disorder. These include:
- Veterans and active-duty military members
- Police officers
- First responders
- Healthcare professionals
- Construction workers
- Transportation workers (e.g., truck drivers, delivery drivers)
- Aviation workers
- Agricultural workers
- Warehouse and manufacturing employees
- Utility workers
Individuals in these professions are certainly at a greater risk of experiencing frightening events. But other triggering incidents, such as assaults or other forms of workplace violence, can occur anywhere and also trigger PTSD among employees.
How to Prove PTSD Is Caused By Work
Proving that PTSD was caused by work starts by obtaining a formal medical diagnosis. When making a diagnosis, doctors look for certain symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and experiencing flashbacks or haunting memories of the incident.
Avoiding work and social activities that the person used to enjoy are other symptoms of PTSD. Hyperarousal or overreactions to circumstances that resemble the traumatic event, such as fireworks for someone that witnessed an explosion, are also possible signs of PTSD.
Workers must also prove that the job-related traumatic event that caused their PTSD was extraordinary and unusual compared to everyday working conditions. To satisfy this requirement, witness statements from co-workers and others who saw the incident can be especially helpful.
In South Carolina, workers that have suffered an injury on the job, including PTSD, must see a doctor on their employer’s approved list of medical providers. Workers can seek a second opinion from a doctor not on the list of approved providers, but the workers’ compensation insurer may not cover those medical bills. However, a second opinion can provide valuable evidence if a claim is denied and the worker seeks to appeal.
Individuals that believe they have developed PTSD as a result of work-related conditions should report it to their employer as soon as possible, even if they have not yet seen a doctor. The workers’ compensation system has strict deadlines. If a report is not made in a timely manner, it could place the entire claim in jeopardy.
You shouldn’t be overwhelmed with trying to collect the paperwork needed to submit a strong workers’ compensation claim. Let Stewart Law Offices do the heavy lifting for you. We strive to obtain maximum workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD sufferers.
Why Should I Hire a South Carolina Workers’ Comp Attorney?
You are not required to hire a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to file a claim. But should you?
If you’re living with job-related PTSD, speaking to a lawyer is particularly important. Claims without physical injuries are subject to intense scrutiny by insurance companies — and valid mental health claims have a long history of being dismissed. The insurance company will do its best to avoid paying out your claim. An attorney’s job to is to prevent that from happening to you.
All workers’ compensation claims have strict deadlines and require persuasive evidence. One of the major reasons that claims get denied is for lack of proof. A good workers’ comp lawyer knows what it takes to build a strong case for full and fair benefits.
Another advantage of consulting with an attorney is that you will be ready if you ever need to appeal your case to the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission. The deadlines are much tighter with appeals. The procedures are also similar to court proceedings. A lawyer can help prepare your case for hearings and advocate for your claim to be approved. Your employer’s insurance company will also have an attorney present to defend the case at any hearings, so having your own lawyer there can ensure that you have someone in your corner at all times.
Make sure to consult a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately if:
- Your employer denies that you sustained PTSD at work.
- The insurance company has refused you benefits.
- You are unable to get the medical help you need.
- The insurance company offered benefits to you, but you have not yet received them.
It’s not always easy to get the benefits that you deserve in a workers’ compensation claim, but having a lawyer can help you fight for a fair result.
What Stewart Law Offices Can Do for Your Work-Related PTSD Claim
If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event at work, obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can help you get the mental health care you need. Get experience and compassion on your side by hiring a SC workers’ compensation lawyer at Stewart Law Offices today.
For 30 years, our law firm has fought for the rights of injured people throughout South Carolina. Let us help you, too.
We can meet in our office, your home, or wherever is most comfortable for you. Call or contact us now for a free consultation.