The other day I received a phone call from a someone who believed they had been triggered into a mental health crisis by work conditions. Emotional distress and psychological injuries are covered by the D.C. Workers' Compensation Act, but in practice they are difficult to prove. Unless there was a physical injury connected to the emotional and mental distress, such as an assault, or a very clearly traumatic experience (such as a shooting or a suicide), causation is unclear. Typically, to be covered, the emotional distress is connected to a serious physical injury. Examples of emotional distress covered by workers comp in D.C. include a bus operator threatened with a knife by a passenger, a charter school teacher beaten by a student, the victim of a serious on-the-job truck accident, a salesperson robbed and thrown to the ground. These are all cases we are currently handling for people. And all but one involve serious orthopaedic or neurological physical injuries.
However, the law is not quite so black and white on this issue. The bus operator above wasn't physically injured.
Basically, the worker must show the work conditions could have caused similar emotional injury in a worker who was not predisposed to such an injury. For example, harsh or negative treatment by a supervisor rarely rises to this level.
To learn more about workers' compensation claims and benefits, call or email to request a copy of our book Protect Your Rights: The Ultimate Guide to D.C. Workers' Compensation. Or just call us at 202-393-3320 to order your free copy of the only book written just for workers by a board-certified trial attorney today.