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New Jersey workers' compensation covers mental health claims

When you hear someone has been hurt in a Bergen County workplace, you may assume the harm was physical. That's a fair assumption. However, New Jersey workers' compensation claims also may be filed for injuries to mental health, including claims for victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.

You may make another assumption about PTSD, a condition closely associated with combat soldiers. Other professions also involve witnessing horrific experiences. Think about people who experience repeated exposure to danger and violent injuries or deaths – emergency responders may face that daily.

New Jersey police, firefighters and others who suffer job-related PTSD are covered by workers' compensation insurance. Other states refuse to cover the mental health disorder, worried about monetary costs and the possibility of false claims. In our state, many police departments offer more than financial benefits.

Counselors are available for officers through many employee programs at state law enforcement agencies. Police departments and lawmakers recognize that novices and veteran officers, particularly violent crime investigators, can suffer mental health injuries due to their jobs Officers diagnosed with PTSD may be granted leave with pay or reassigned to off-the-street positions.

A mental health condition may be just as disabling as a physical injury. An employee can require extended time away from work or suffer a permanent disability. While some workers' compensation claims for bodily injuries can be challenging to get approved, it can be even more difficult for victims to produce evidence of mental health problems.

Workers' compensation claims for mental health issues sometimes occur as an aftereffect from an at-work physical injury. For instance, an employee sidelined due to a construction site accident may develop depression over worries about not working or family finances. Other employees can suffer immediate injuries following a tragedy like co-worker's death or, for emergency responders, a stranger's suffering.

Attorneys can assist injured workers by gathering evidence to validate mental health claims.

Source: South Jersey Times, "Post traumatic stress for South Jersey police a workers' compensation issue" Jason Laday, May. 25, 2014

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