Mental Stress at Work
People frequently say, “I am stressed out at work.” Much of the time it is an innocuous statement, simply made to let off a little steam.
However, some employees are actually experiencing significant stress that negatively impacts their well-being. Pressure to complete work within unrealistic deadlines, harassment, consistent negative feedback, and low salaries without advancement, can all contribute to serious mental health issues.
Those that work in these kinds of environments can end up with real illnesses, even if they are not visible to others. Mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and chronic insomnia can make work feel intolerable. These in turn can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Factors such as the employee’s age, pre-existing medical conditions, and personality can also contribute to increased stress. When the symptoms become chronic and the emotional damage from work starts to affect an employee’s quality of life, they may have to consider filing a claim for workers’ compensation.
Physical, Mental Injuries Are Not Always Isolated
Work-related physical and mental injuries are often intertwined. If an employee is permanently disabled by a work injury and ends up in a wheelchair, they could face long-term mental illnesses, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Other disabilities from physical trauma like psychoneurosis can also be long-lasting. Further, there have also been cases of mental stress causing physical injuries, and vice-versa.
The Burden of Proof
To qualify for this kind of claim, the worker needs to have been employed for six months or more at the company. They must provide a psychiatric injury diagnosis that necessitated treatment from a medical provider, or a resultant disability that prevented them from working. The evidence needs to show that “actual events of employment” were the main cause of the injury. There may be an exception if something highly unusual occurred at the workplace.
Since mental injury claims cannot be diagnosed with tests like x-rays and MRIs, they are harder to prove. Proving that one was caused at work can be challenging, as the standard of proof must be from an “objectively verified” on-the-job situation. The courts will also look at the claimant’s lifestyle and other factors that contribute to their daily emotional stress.
The South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP can help you with proving a mental injury claim.
Workers’ Compensation Claim Requirements in New Jersey
Like any other workers’ comp claim in New Jersey, the claimant must adhere to the statute of limitations. Generally, the clock starts running at the time a claim the injury or illness was realized to have been caused by the employment. An employee that is making a workers’ compensation claim for mental stress has to prove that they were working for the company, and that their injuries were incurred while they were working.
Both physical and mental illness claims can be for either permanent or temporary disability benefits.
New Jersey laws also require that the established disability must have been caused by the employment with the objective proof. An employee’s own opinion and perceptions about coworkers and job responsibilities are not sufficient to acquire workers’ compensation benefits.
The State has awarded benefits in cases where employees have experienced no physical injuries, only mental ones. For example, in 1953 an engineer was involved in a steam pipe explosion but was not physically harmed. The trauma led to a psychoneurotic disability, though, and the evidence persuaded the court to award him benefits.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
Employees that cannot make mental injury claims under workers’ compensation may have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit. There are generally two kinds:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress
These also require objective evidence provided by the claimant and are usually more serious claims.
Rather than showing job-related stress, the claimant might have to show that the company inflicted substantial abuse, like outright discrimination or harassment.
Employees should be able to speak with supervisors or human resource departments about highly stressful work situations. If this is not possible, or attempts have not been successful, it may be time to contact the South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP for assistance.
South Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP Help Employees with Mental Stress Issues
If you need legal guidance with any type of work injury claim, call the knowledgeable South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP. Call 856-761-3773 or complete an online form for a free consultation today. We are located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and serve clients throughout South Jersey and the City of Camden.