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"Mental-Mental" Worker's Comp Claims Following Connecticut School Shooting Injuries

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Following the Connecticut school shootings, unions representing police and firefighters and school employees have held discussions about laws to expand situations under which worker's comp benefits would be available for mental health issues. Connecticut worker's compensation law does not provide for "Mental-Mental" claims, which are claims for psychological disabilities that do not stem from an original physical injury. Police officers, firefighters, and school officials do not meet the requirements of Connecticut's Statute for psychological counseling or time lost benefits in the event they are unable to work because of psychological disability in the wake of the shootings.

Since the mid-1970s Wisconsin has recognized non-traumatic mental injury ("Mental-Mental") in worker's compensation. Before 1974, compensable mental injuries were limited to post-traumatic injuries, mental disorders occurring after and due to a physical accident. The statute then defined injury as "mental or physical harm to an employee caused by accident."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court set a new "Extraordinary Stress" standard for compensability, indicating if the mental injury resulted from situation of greater dimensions than the day to day stress, which all employees must experience, benefits and medical expenses could be paid. The restrictive standard reflected the Court's worry that paying claims for mental injury without a triggering trauma might "open the floodgates to numerous fraudulent claims of mental injury."

The floodgates have not opened. Mental-Mental claims are relatively rare in Wisconsin, due to the "extraordinary stress" requirement.

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