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We all know that workers' compensation benefits cover workplace injuries. If you're hurt on the job, you can still get paid for time you miss while recovering. What many of us may not know is whether those benefits cover our mental health, and whether we can get workers' comp for psychological conditions like anxiety, stress, or emotional distress.
And the answer, as with most legal questions, is a resounding "It depends."
Is the Injury Work-Related?
Regardless of whether you can't work because of a physical condition or a mental one, workers' comp covers "work-related" injuries -- those which can be connected in some way to an employment requirement or condition. The easiest way to determine a work-related injury is whether it happened while you were doing something on behalf of your employer or otherwise in the course of employment. While these injuries will mostly occur at the workplace, they can also happen outside the office, as long as you were doing something connected to his or her job.
Therefore, mental injuries like depression, PTSD, or even alcoholism may be covered if they were sustained on the job or caused by the job, and a preexisting condition could be covered if it worsened during the course of employment.
Are You a Covered Employee?
Sadly, just because an injury might be covered by workers' comp doesn't necessarily mean that you can collect benefits. While employers in most states are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, only workers properly classified as "employees" are covered. So independent contractors are usually not covered. Also, while some states specifically include illegal immigrant workers in employers' workers' comp coverage, a few do not require coverage of undocumented workers. And, depending on your state, seasonal workers or domestic workers like housekeepers, nannies, and babysitters are not covered by workers' comp benefits.
If you have been hurt on the job, a pre-existing condition has worsened due to your working conditions, or you've had a workers' comp claim denied, an experienced workers' compensation attorney can help.