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California Workers' Comp Claims for Mental Health Issues


Most people would say that they have a stressful job, but some occupations are arguably much more stressful than others. Police officers, paramedics, and firefighters, for example, go to work all the time knowing that another person’s life may depend on their actions later that day. Other occupations deal with vast amounts of money, like a company executive or stockbroker, and the knowledge that so much is on the line can be overwhelming. The pressure to always do the right thing and never slipup can be immense, understandably leading to mental fatigue and emotional breakdowns.

In California, employees who feel overstressed due to the regular duties of their job can file a “stress claim” for workers’ compensation. A stress claim states that a worker has been debilitated by emotions or mental instability brought upon by their job, and therefore require time away from those duties to recover. While they are not performing regular duties, if the stress claim is approved, workers’ compensation would provide some form of coverage as if they had suffered a debilitating physical injury.

Requirements for Stress Claims

Employers and insurers have historically been very skeptical to accept any sort of stress claim due to the abstract notion of the conditions that could be listed. It is much easier to see an employee’s arm in a sling and understand they have a broken arm than it is to see the crippling symptoms of mental illnesses and overstress.

For this reason, stress claims in California can’t be accepted unless they meet these four requirements:

  1. The filing worker must have been diagnosed by a medical professional or psychiatrist as having a disabling mental illness or any mental condition that calls for medical treatment.
  2. The filing worker must have been employed by the cited employer for at least six months; this implies mental and emotional stress takes at least six months to become overwhelming, a point that is often contended.
  3. Evidence must exist to “more than likely” link the regular job duties of the filing worker with their mental illness; the statute actually states that a workplace must be at least 51% responsible for mental trauma to be required to issue workers’ compensation benefits; most physical injury claims only require a minimum threshold of 35%.
  4. Emotional or mental harm cannot be attributed to nondiscriminatory actions of the employer, such as denying a promotion due to poor work performance; a worker also cannot claim that the workers’ compensation process contributed to their mental duress.

While the requirements are meant to stop people from abusing stress claims, they more often than not severely limit people who genuinely need the help. If you need to create a stress-related workers’ compensation claim but are worried you will not be taken seriously, Alvandi Law Group, P.C. and our Orange County workers’ compensation attorneys can help. We have been serving Southern California clients for more than 10 years and are backed by $300+ million worth of successful recoveries. Call (800) 980-6905 today to request a free consultation.

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