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OK Workers’ Comp Laws Differ for Psychological Injuries

In some cases of on-the-job accidents in Oklahoma, the affected worker suffers injuries so severe that his life will never be the same. It is fair to assume that this devastating realization could lead the worker to experience severe psychological harm directly related to his physical injuries, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act restricts a worker’s ability to collect benefits for nonphysical injuries, including depression, PTSD or extreme anxiety. There are certain circumstances, however, in which an Oklahoma worker suffering from depression or another emotional injury may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you have sustained an on-the-job injury in Oklahoma and you have since experienced depression or another psychological injury, contact our knowledgeable attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center to discuss your legal options.

Understanding the Workers’ Compensation Act

According to the OK Workers’ Compensation Act, a compensable injury “shall not include mental injury that does not arise directly as a result of a compensable physical injury, except in the case of rape or another crime of violence which arises out of and in the course of employment.” This means, in short, that if a worker suffers an emotional injury like depression as a result of sustaining a physical workplace injury, then the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court would consider compensation for both claims. For example, if a construction worker in Oklahoma falls from a rooftop, suffering permanent injuries to his legs and back that prevents him from returning to work or living a normal life, he may, as a result, experience psychological injuries like major depression. In this case, the injured worker may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits for both his physical and emotional injuries.

Psychological Injuries Accompanied by Physical Harm

This statute was tested earlier this month when the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals overturned a Workers’ Compensation Court’s ruling that a Norman firefighter was entitled to benefits for psychological and emotional injuries – PTSD and depression – resulting from his experience at a particularly devastating emergency scene. The Workers’ Compensation Court ruled in favor of the firefighter, as his doctor noted that the PTSD caused chemical changes in the worker’s brain and body, thereby amounting to “physical injury to the brain.” The city of Norman appealed the court’s decision, and while it did not contest the fact that the injured worker suffered from depression and PTSD, it argued that his condition was not compensable under Oklahoma law because they were only psychological injuries, not accompanied by a physical injury. The appeals court agreed and ruled in the city’s favor.

Consult Our Experienced Attorneys for Help

After suffering a serious injury at work, it is imperative that the employee collects the workers’ compensation benefits he is entitled to for his injuries and medical expenses. Unfortunately, when a traumatic experience leads to psychological harm without a physical injury, such as was the case with the Norman firefighter, the worker likely won’t be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for the emotional injury. If you have been injured on the job in Oklahoma, or if you have suffered a psychological injury like extreme anxiety, PTSD or depression, contact our qualified lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center today. Our attorneys have extensive experience protecting the legal rights of injured workers throughout the state of Oklahoma, and can help you pursue the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve for your injuries.

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