When serious accidents injure workers, we’re familiar with many of their long-term consequences. Burns can change a person’s quality of life, amputations can harm a person’s ability to work and interact with the world, and other serious injuries can create lasting repercussions for workers. Yet, what about the injuries that are not physical and not as easy to see?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental injury that’s every bit as difficult to heal from as a serious physical injury. It can last for years, it can be painful, and it can change a person’s life permanently. Yet, since PTSD isn’t seen as obviously as some injuries, people are often unsure if it counts as a work injury.
What Is PTSD & How Is It Diagnosed?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is defined by the National Institute of Public Health as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event." The difficulty with diagnosing PTSD is the “invisible" status that it has. It doesn’t show on x-rays, it isn’t visible with a person’s appearance, and it doesn’t have any physical pain associated with it. However, there are signs and symptoms that are used to diagnose PTSD.
The Mayo Clinic includes the following as symptoms of PTSD:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Unwanted distressing memories of a traumatic event
- Reliving trauma through flashbacks
- Emotional distress and physical reactions when reminded of a traumatic event
- Negative thoughts
- Memory difficulties
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Lack of interest in former hobbies or activities a person enjoyed
- Difficulty feeling happy or positive
- Emotional numbness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Always being nervous or on guard for danger
- Getting frightened easily
- Guilt or shame
- Issues with concentration
- Self-destructive behavior
- Aggressive behavior or excessive anger
The symptoms listed above are an example of the most common ones exhibited by those suffering from PTSD. Importantly, it is not comprehensive or complete. If someone believes they may be suffering from PTSD, they need to speak with a medical professional as soon as possible.
Medical professionals categorize symptoms of PTSD as:
- Re-experiencing symptoms
- Avoidance symptoms
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms
- Cognition and mood symptoms
If a person exhibits a certain amount of each of these symptoms, it’s likely that they’ll be diagnosed as suffering from PTSD. In other words, PTSD is a diagnosable injury a worker can suffer after a traumatic event such as an accident.
Survivors Guilt: A Significant Struggle for Workers After Accidents
When a work accident is significant enough to harm multiple people, it isn’t uncommon for some of the injured to die. When this happens, survivors of accidents deal with something known as survivor’s guilt. This mental condition occurs when a person believes they could have done something to prevent an accident or, even worse, they think that they caused it. The result is self-guilt that forces a person to struggle with their mental health and overall well-being.
Survivor's guilt is a significant symptom of PTSD and is something those who’ve been through a major work accident should seek medical assistance for.
Can You Get Compensation for PTSD Caused by a Work Accident?
If a worker is suffering from PTSD from an accident, they can pursue compensation for it just as they can for physical injuries. The symptoms of PTSD can mean a person need compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and the loss of an ability to work because of their injury. These are known as compensatory damages.
Workers with PTSD can also pursue something known as non-compensatory damages after suffering from PTSD. Often, people know these damages as “pain and suffering." Non-compensatory damages are not meant to replace monetary losses caused by an accident. Instead, they’re designed to be a penalty for the party that failed to prevent an accident.
If you’ve been injured mentally, physically, or both because of a preventable work accident, help is available from Arnold & Itkin LLP. Our team is standing by at (888) 493-1629 to provide a free consultation to help you decide what options are available to you.