Not all injuries sustained in a workplace accident show up during a doctor’s examination or on an X-ray. Along with a back or joint injury, the incident could trigger a mental disorder like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And it can take longer for the psychic wounds to heal than the physical ones.
PTSD is a form of mental illness caused by trauma. Often associated with a wartime experience and being the victim of a violent crime, PTSD can also result from a work-related accident. Incidents like a fall from height, getting a limb caught in machinery, electric shock and burns from a fire can be triggering, though there is no way to predict who will develop PTSD and who will not. Common symptoms include intrusive memories and flashbacks of the trauma, anxiety, sleep problems, a constant feeling of being “on guard,” and irritability.
PTSD and workers’ compensation in Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation laws recognize that “mental harm” caused by work-related injuries or illnesses is compensable in most cases. However, making a claim based on a mental disorder without a related physical injury can be complicated. The worker must show that their PTSD resulted from a situation of greater dimensions than the usual day-to-day stress experienced by workers in that field.
First responders excepted
While all jobs can potentially lead to situations that trigger PTSD, the disorder is quite common in some jobs. First responders like police officers, firefighters and EMTs deal with intense situations regularly. But first responders cannot qualify for workers’ comp under Wisconsin law. The Legislature is considering a bill to change the law.
For someone who developed PTSD due to job-related trauma, it can take months or years of therapy to control the disorder. Meanwhile, workers’ compensation may be help make up for lost income.