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Can You Get Workers' Comp for Depression?

You may think that you can only get workers’ comp when you’ve been physically injured, but depression is often a viable way to obtain benefits.

Workers’ comp generally covers work-related injuries, which can include mental injuries like depression and anxiety. Eligible depression sufferers may be able to claim that their employment has either caused their depressive state or possibly aggravated a pre-existing condition.

For many workers, explaining their depression to receive worker’s comp may be difficult, but remember these legal points:

Depression Can Get You Benefits

While there may have been a time that workers who were described as “feeling blue” would have been left to themselves or simply told to cheer up, that isn’t the state of modern medicine or psychology. Depression is a real mental state with real physical and mental consequences, and for that reason, it should be taken as seriously as a broken bone or nerve damage.

The law has evolved along with these changes in attitude toward depression, allowing depression sufferers to be eligible for workers’ comp when their depression is caused or aggravated by work-related activity. Even the infamous “pepper-spraying cop” was able to get workers’ comp for the anxiety and depression he suffered after the public backlash from his actions.

Physical Injuries Can Cause Depression

Depression can often follow physical injuries, and while the treatment of these claims may be similar, chronic depression may continue well after an injury has healed. If you’ve been experiencing depression as the result of a work-related physical injury, you may continue to receive worker’s comp even after the physical injury has healed.

Medical and Legal Causation

For purely mental injuries, such as depression which is not spurred by any physical injury or ailment, workers’ comp claimants may be required to prove that the injury is work-related. This often requires both:

  • Medical causation — a doctor or psychiatrist’s evaluation that the depression is caused or aggravated by work events, and
  • Legal causation — a state-determined burden of proof that shows that work was the legal cause of the depression.

The burden of proof for legal causation may vary by state. Many states will only allow benefits when depression is a “major contributing cause” or “substantial contributing cause.” Others only require it to be a “material contributing factor.”

Because the law can be confusing, it may be best to contact a local attorney to figure out how to claim workers’ comp for depression in your state.

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