Workers’ Compensation for PTSD and Mental Injuries
How Does Workers’ Compensation Handle Mental Injury in South Carolina?
Workers’ Compensation is designed to support employees who suffer accidents or injuries at work, or who develop illnesses directly related to their working conditions, as well as people who were dependent for support upon those killed in the course of employment.
It’s easy to see how an employee who had a finger cut off on the factory line could be compensated for medical bills, lost wages and rehabilitation. But what about when the injuries are less visible, like mental injuries and mental illness? That’s what the South Carolina Senate is considering right now for first responders.
Should Workers’ Compensation be Expanded for First Responders?
Section 42-1-160 of the South Carolina State Code says that “stress, mental injuries, and mental illness” from employment are not considered a personal injury (and therefore not subject to workers’ compensation benefits) unless the conditions causing it “were extraordinary and unusual in comparison to the normal conditions of the particular employment.”
That means that the employee on the factory line, for example, could be covered for PTSD if he or she experiences something extraordinarily or unusually traumatic that the person normally doesn’t experience, and the extraordinary or unusual condition leads to the mental injury.
The same is true for first responders. But considering that first responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics, have jobs that the rest of us would consider “extraordinary and unusual” all of the time, does it make sense to hold them to this same standard?
That’s what South Carolina Bill S. 429, introduced in February 2015 by primary sponsor Sen. Paul Thurmond, has called into question. Under S. 429, first responders would be able to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits “without regard” to whether their situation was extraordinary or unusual. The bill, however, was stalled by a minority report earlier this month over concerns that it might lead to abuse and that the Workers’ Compensation system was not the best way to handle these cases.
While it seems that these employees – who have some of the highest rates of suicide among professions – could ultimately be able to receive Worker’s Compensation benefits for their experiences, the debate is currently over how best to make that happen.
Do You Have a Question About Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ Compensation law can be complex, but we’re here to talk with you about your case and walk you through the process. If you’ve suffered an injury or illness in the course of your employment, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Don’t suffer in silence! Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
The Carolina Law Group has four offices across South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville* (call 864.312.4444), West Greenville (864.312.4444), Greer* (call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg* (864.757.5555). Call to schedule your consultation with a local attorney today.
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Greenville, SC 29601
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