Should Workers’ Compensation Cover Mental Disorders?
Florida’s Supreme Court made two major changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws back in 2016. First, they extended temporary injury payments from 104 to 260 weeks, and second they lifted the restrictive lawyer compensation plan that made many Florida attorneys avoid workers’ comp cases entirely.
Business groups predicted doom and gloom regarding workers’ comp insurance premiums, but the big payouts they expected haven’t come to pass and the premium rates have gone down for 2018. As such, Florida legislators made only one change to the workers’ comp law since 2016: they’ve added PTSD as a covered condition for first responders.
The Strain Of Emergencies
For a long time, people have placed mental disorders in a separate category from physical injuries. That’s why until now workers’ compensation hasn’t covered any mental disorder or disease unless it was the result of a traumatic brain injury, and even then it would often take some convincing to get insurance companies to cover their treatment. However, people now understand more about how the brain works and what can cause mental problems, and it’s leading to more effective treatments, better medications, and more sympathy for the people who suffer from these conditions.
Still, for the most part this has nothing to do with workers’ compensation. For the most part, a person’s work environment doesn’t cause mental disorders (although it can sometimes trigger episodes), but there’s no doubt when it comes to the link between PTSD and first responders.
A survey conducted in 2017 by the University of Phoenix found that 85 percent of first responders have experienced mental health issues, and a full third of them had been diagnosed with depression or PTSD. Of that group, only half had gone through pre-exposure training while a separate half had received any amount of treatment.
The Importance Of Mental Care
If you break your arm at work, no matter how or why it happened, workers’ comp will pay for your treatment and cover part of your paycheck until you’re well enough to head back to your job. However, if you experience a severe trauma on the job because you respond to emergency situations, and if every day since then your job has reminded you of this trauma and it’s hurting your performance and your life, then you just have to deal with that somehow.
Mental disorders are harder to see than a broken arm, but they’re no less real, and there’s no question that first responders often go through traumatic experiences because of their job. Adding PTSD coverage to the workers’ comp law is a welcome change, and it’s one that will help both employees and their employers. After all, first responders who can go into danger with clear heads are much more effective than ones suffering from untreated post-traumatic stress. The only real shame is that it took a particularly traumatic event to push Florida’s legislators to pass this law.
Still, even with this latest advancement, there’s a stigma on mental disorders that makes it hard to talk about. You’ll also run into insurance claims adjusters who don’t think mental disorders should get the same level of treatment as physical injuries, making it hard to get the full claim you deserve.
That’s where law firms like Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh come in handy. Our firm has hundreds of hours of experience with civil law and reluctant insurers, and we can help you negotiate fair compensation for auto collisions, personal injuries, and workplace accidents. If you live in southwest Florida and you need a personal injury lawyer, you should contact one of our offices and consult with us for a free initial case review.