When is a Psychological Injury Compensable under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Laws?

One of the elements of a compensable claim under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws is that there be an injury. An injury is commonly thought of as a physical injury such as cuts, burns, or broken bones, but in some situations, a claimant may argue that they suffered from a psychological injury. Examples of psychological injuries include depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder requiring treatment with a psychiatrist and therapist. Pennsylvania recognizes three types of psychological injuries: 1) physical/mental, 2) mental/mental, 3) and mental/physical.

The first category, physical/mental, applies when there is a physical stimulus that results in a psychological injury. It is not necessary to show a physical disability, meaning that a physical injury causes the claimant to miss work. However, if there is a physical injury that requires medical treatment, this is enough to invoke the physical/mental standard. An example of a physical/mental claim is a claimant who witnesses their coworker suffer from limb amputation. While trying to assist the coworker, the claimant got bodily fluids on themselves and later required testing for blood-borne illnesses. That claimant later developed post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to leave their house due to the severity of their symptoms. Because this claimant required medical treatment and testing, this claim would be considered physical/mental.

The second category, mental/mental, applies when a claimant suffers a psychological injury without a physical stimulus. In this situation, the claimant has a greater burden of proof and must show that the psychological injury was caused by abnormal working conditions. There is no bright-line rule for what an abnormal working condition is, and this determination is decided by a workers’ compensation judge. Some examples of situations that are not considered abnormal working conditions are added responsibilities to a job, perceived abuse by supervisors, and termination of employment. An example of what was determined to be an abnormal working condition was a claimant who suffered a psychological injury when he killed a pedestrian who stepped in front of his street sweeper truck.

The last category, mental/physical, applies when psychological stress results in a purely physical injury. These physical injuries can include angina, diarrhea, or abdominal pains. If the claim is purely physical, no showing of an abnormal working condition is required. An example of this type of claim was in Panyko v. WCAB (US Airways), 888 A.2d 724 (2005). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that there was a mental/physical injury when a claimant suffered a stress-related heart attack after a confrontation with his supervisor. However, as pointed out in the dissent of this case, there have been other cases where similar claims had been denied.

Obviously, each individual will react differently to work conditions and adverse situations placed before them. If you believe that you have suffered a psychological injury due to working, we recommend that you contact an attorney for a consultation.

    I would recommend these people to anyone.

    “The lawyers at this office and their staff, Mr. [Attorney] DeVere and [Paralegal] Stephanie, his assistant, became the voice I didn’t have after the accident. They were my points of light.”

    - Ms. D. Lopez
    I would recommend Metzger Wickersham to everyone.

    “You guys were so easy to work with. There was no stress and the whole process was done in a timely manner. I would recommend Metzger Wickersham to everyone. Such a pleasure.”

    - Sharon Balent
    You guys are absolutely amazing and that’s an understatement.

    “Attorney Painter was simply amazing...My wife had been fighting SSI for over three years. Since working with Metzger Wickersham her stress and anxiety levels were 100% gone.”

    - Carlos Bonilla
    Outstanding in every way

    “Outstanding in every way no one has ever helped me more in my entire life like this firm. I highly recommend. Thank you very much.”

    - Gary Klinger
    Absolutely wonderful!

    “They helped me with my case on a motor vehicle accident. They were kind, understanding, professional, and got the job done. They explained things, talked me through stuff, and answered any questions I had!”

    - Ms. Brianna Marquis
    Thank you for going that extra mile.

    “I wanted to thank Valerie for all her hard work and going that extra mile for me! I was denied twice, Valerie appealed my case to the Appeals court. Thanks to Valerie, my case was finally won after ...”

    - Joanne Brenizer

Let Us Fight For You

Request a Free Consultation
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.