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Tennessee court OKs workers' comp for man with PTSD

Workers all across America take comfort knowing that they will be covered by workers' compensation in the event of a work-related injury. When the system works as intended, workers' compensation gives injured workers the financial means to cover their expenses and focus on recovery. When benefits are denied, however, the injured worker often finds his or her stress multiplied, and many take on fighting for their coverage at the same time that they struggle with healing from the source of the claim.

A case involving a workers' compensation claim for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has made its way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The case does not challenge the worker's claim that he has the disorder, but rather the issue is centered on whether his claim was filed in a timely manner. The incidents prompting the filing took place in February and April of 2008.

According to the claim, the employee, who was working as an attendant in a melt shop at Gerdau Ameristeel Inc., saw the body of a co-worker who had fallen to his death from a platform. The following month, the worker saw another co-worker's dead body after a separate falling accident. At the time of the incidents, the worker declined grief counseling that was provided by the employer. However, in the months following the accidents he became overwhelmed with emotional distress, and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and filed for workers' compensation.

A lower Tennessee court ruled that the workers' compensation claim was not timely, because it was filed in June 2009, more than a year following the incidents. However, attorneys for the worker argued that the claim could not have been made until the worker had been properly diagnosed, and that his filing occurred within one year of receiving the medical diagnosis of PTSD. The Tennessee Supreme Court agreed, and the case has now been remanded back to the lower court where the worker will be awarded permanent partial disability benefits.

Source: Workforce, "PTSD of Employee Who Witnessed Deaths at Work Is Compensable," Sheena Harrison, June 14, 2012

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