Workers’ compensation lawyers can seek compensation for such standard damages as:
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
However, current South Carolina law restricts inserting mental injuries into a state’s workers’ compensation benefits. Often, SC benefits are granted for injuries and illnesses suffered at work, but their emotional well-being is not even considered. A South Carolina workers’ comp attorney is usually needed to walk people through the legal process and make sure their rights are protected.
PTSD in SC Law
The existing South Carolina workers’ compensation law manages PTSD in the workplace by avoiding it. According to the SC code, working conditions that cause undue stress or mental injury are not considered when weighing the personal injury of a worker’s comp claim.
Any mental injury or illness occurring from employment or unemployment must accompany a physical injury. On rare occasions, a claim will be reviewed if the working conditions were not normal and extraordinary in some way. This wording is vague, at best.
Recently, a bill has been making the rounds in the state legislature that would revise the current code’s stance on PTSD. It is currently in the state judiciary committee. If passed, it proposes allowing first responders like police and firefighters to receive workers’ compensation for a diagnosis of mental illness or a stress-related injury after witnessing traumatic events in the line of duty.
First Responder Support
First responders often have to rely on peer-to-peer programs to help them receive mental health treatments. Firefighters have SC FAST, and law enforcement has SC LEAP. While these two organizations offer clinical support for their mental well-being, the help is limited, and coverage is capped at $15,000.
This new legislation provides people in need with financial assistance and time off to deal with their injuries. In the past, similar bills have fallen short because SC lawmakers are worried it will open the door to more comprehensive legislation or the possible abuse of the workers’ comp system.
PTSD in the Workplace
Talking about your mental health can feel like an impossible threshold to cross. One of the most difficult hurdles is admitting you are overcome with anxiety or struggling with depression or PTSD. Having this conversation with your employer or coworkers makes it even harder. It is harder still when the workplace is what is creating the psychological toll.
Far too often, employees do not want to rock the boat or seem weak, so they suffer in silence. They cannot focus, and their work suffers. They take home this emotional burden, and their family and loved ones suffer too.
With PTSD, the trauma suffered needs to have originated from a stressful or horrific incident or being exposed to a series of traumatic events in the scope of your job duties. Although it is frequent, a physical injury does not always need to occur for workplace PTSD to occur. A worker can suffer solely from PTSD. Some of the most common ways that an employee can develop workplace PTSD include:
- Experiencing criminal activity or violence at work, such as a robbery or an active shooter incident
- Suffering a catastrophic injury at work
- Suffering sexual assault from a co-worker
- Witnessing another employee being injured or dying
ymptoms of Workplace PTSD
Symptoms usually seen in workplace PTSD include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Avoiding triggering stimuli
- Blaming yourself
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, or anger
- Flashbacks and dreams concerning the traumatic event
- Irritability and angry outbursts
- Issues with impulse control
- Lost interest in activities once enjoyed
- Memory loss about the traumatic event
- Reduced self-esteem
- Self-destructive behavior
- Withdrawing from loved ones and coworkers
PTSD not only causes mental distress, but it can also manifest in physical symptoms, including:
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Heart attack or stroke
A doctor may diagnose PTSD if any of these symptoms last for more than a month and lead to substantial impairments at work or at home.
Contact a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney
On-the-job injuries can be catastrophic. Living through the nightmare of a workplace accident is a terrifying experience for the injured worker and their family. They are left dealing with the pain, being out of work, and facing finances spiraling out of control.
A South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can help you find options for the compensation needed to get your life back on track. The experienced team at Shelly Leeke Law Firm can help you cope and manage stress. Employers and their insurance companies will try to keep a settlement to a minimum.
We can review your case, and if viable, we will provide the information needed to navigate the next steps in your case. If you or a loved one has been hurt at work and need help through the process, complete our contact form for a complimentary case evaluation.